Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the first web browser WorldWideWeb, has announced he will auction off the source code of his creation in a series of NFTs. This is a surprise move to many, as Berners-Lee has never before sought to profit off the browser, which was launched in 1991 and discontinued in 1994. No patent was filed for the source code, which entered the public domain in 1993. Sotheby’s, the company hosting the NFT auction, says that the proceeds will go towards initiatives that Berners-Lee and his wife support. The auction will be open from June 23 to June 30, with bidding starting at $1,000.
There has been much hype around NFTs in recent times, with many other famous folks clamoring to get involved. An NFT is not the actual digital object it is associated with but is rather a digital certificate of ownership that lives on the blockchain, similar to cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. They have also been the source of much controversy, with their electricity-guzzling nature deemed terrible for the environment. The reliability of NFTs themselves has also been called into question, as they rely on URLs and servers hosting the digital objects the NFTs refer to remaining online and functional.
According to Sotheby’s, the NFTs of the original web browser includes four different “works”. The first is an “Original archive of dated and time-stamped files containing the source code” plus “the original HTML documents that instructed early web users on how to use the application.” The second is an “Animated visualization of the code being written (Video, black & white, silent), lasting 30 minutes 25 seconds.” The third is a “digital poster” in the form of a Scalable Vector Graphics representation of the code, with the digital signature of Sir Tim Berners-Lee on the bottom right. The fourth is “A letter written in the README.md file (in “markdown” format) by Sir Tim in June of 2021, reflecting upon the code and his process of creating it.”
"For me, the best bit about the web has been the spirit of collaboration. While I do not make predictions about the future, I sincerely hope its use, knowledge and potential will remain open and available to us all to continue to innovate, create and initiate the next technological transformation, that we cannot yet imagine," Berners-Lee said in a statement from Sotheby's. "NFTs, be they artworks or a digital artefact like this, are the latest playful creations in this realm, and the most appropriate means of ownership that exists. They are the ideal way to package the origins behind the web.”