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The code that changed the world: WWW origin program into an NFT

Tim Berners-Lee will sell a copy of his code for the earliest web browser, with his digital signature, as a non-fungible token.

URL beginning with the HTTP scheme and the WWW domain name label. Image: Kulandru mor — Public Domain (CC0 1.0)
URL beginning with the HTTP scheme and the WWW domain name label. Image: Kulandru mor — Public Domain (CC0 1.0)

The man credited with the development of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, is to auction off the original code used to create the modern internet as a non-fungible token (NFT). The money raised will go towards different charities.

With the auction, the code was developed in 1989. The Web began to enter everyday use in 1993-4, when websites for general use started to become available. The original concept was with connecting information packets together via hyperlinks on the early Internet.

The first web page described the idea: “Aiming to give universal access to a large universe of documents.”

Non-fungible tokens

An NFT is a unit of data stored on a digital ledger (blockchain), which enables a digital asset to be certified as unique.  An NFT can represent digital media such as photographs, videos, audio, and so on. Each digital item is no not interchangeable (hence the NFT is the opposite of fungible, where fungibility is an economic property of a commodity where the individual units are essentially interchangeable).

There are different schools of thought in relation to NFTs, which show seeing them as a ‘natural’ transition within the digital world. Whereas others see them as a new extension of corporate greed as well as being bad for the environment. The environmental impact is due to NFT’s being generated via the Ethereum blockchain, which has a significant carbon footprint.

With the Web code being the original copy, signed by Berners-Lee, it is being treated as a handwritten journal by a renowned novelist.

Auctioning The Web

What is being put up for auction are the original time-stamped files containing the source code written for the project that created the Web. This includes an animated visualisation of that code, together with a letter from Berners-Lee, plus a digital poster of the code. The files contain about 10,000 lines of written code.

By offering the proceeds to charity, Berners-Lee is continuing with his mission of not making any money from his invention. From its inception, the Web has existed as an open standard.

Speaker about the auction, Berners-Lee  explained that the act of digitally auctioning his invention was appropriate. He says: “It feels right to digitally sign my autograph on a completely digital artefact.”

The auction will take place at Sotheby’s between 23-30 June, 2021. The opening bid is $1,000. The code is expected to make much more. Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, sold the first ever tweet as an NFT for $2.9 million in March, 2021.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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