Tim Berners-Lee to sell web source code as NFT at Sotheby’s auction


Sir Tim Berners-Lee gives a speech at the Campus Party Italia 2019 on July 25, 2019 in Milan, Italy.

Rosdiana Ciaravolo | Getty Images

LONDON — British computer scientist and inventor Tim Berners-Lee is auctioning the original code for the world wide web as a non-fungible token.

NFTs are a type of digital asset designed to show that someone has ownership of a unique virtual item, such as online pictures and videos, or even sports trading cards.

The auction for the world wide web NFT — titled “This Changed Everything” — will be run by Sotheby’s in London from June 23-30, with bidding starting at $1,000. The proceeds of the auction will benefit initiatives that Berners-Lee and his wife support, Sotheby’s said.

The NFT includes original time-stamped files containing the source code written by Berners-Lee, an animated visualization of the code, a letter written by Berners-Lee on the code and its creation, and a digital “poster” of the full code. They will all be digitally signed by Berners-Lee.

It will be the first time Berners-Lee has been able to capitalize financially on what is widely viewed as one of the greatest inventions of our time.

“Three decades ago, I created something which, with the subsequent help of a huge number of collaborators across the world, has been a powerful tool for humanity,” said Berners-Lee in a statement. “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.”

He added: “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.”

Cassandra Hatton, global head of science and popular culture at Sotheby’s, said in a statement that the “NFT format” will allow collectors to “own the ultimate digitally-born artefact.”

In March, South Carolina-based graphic designer Beeple, whose real name is Mike Winkelmann, sold an NFT for a record $69 million at a Christie’s auction. Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, sold his first tweet as an NFT for $2.9 million later that month.

More recently, a rare digital avatar known as a CryptoPunk sold at Sotheby’s for over $11.7 million on Thursday. Total NFT sales reached an eye-watering $2 billion in the first quarter of this year, according to data from Nonfungible, a website which tracks the market.

But there are signs that the bubble could be bursting, with sales of digital collectibles falling dramatically in recent weeks. Overall sales plunged from a seven-day peak of $176 million on May 9, to just $8.7 million on June 15, according to numbers from Nonfungible. That means volumes are now roughly back where they were at the start of 2021.

— Additional reporting by CNBC’s Ryan Browne.



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