Sir Tim Berners-Lee, ‘The Father of The Web’ is having the source code for the first version of his ‘WorldWideWeb’ application auctioned at Sothebys from June 23rd through June 30th as a one of a kind NFT.

“Why an NFT? Well, it's a natural thing to do as when you're a computer scientist and when you write code and have been for many years. It feels right to digitally sign my autograph on a completely digital artefact.”

Sir Tim Berners-Lee

This Changed Everything: Source Code for WWW x Tim Berners-Lee, an NFT

Bidding will begin at $1,000!

“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. 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. 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.”

The internet was just a patchwork of individual networks utilized mostly by computer engineers, for directly sending and receiving relatively limited information... Until Berners-Lee.

In 1989 while Berners-Lee was working at CERN as an Oxford-graduate physicist, attempting to juggle multiple computer systems running incompatible programs, he crafted the fundamental components of the online experience we cherish more each day. With the permission of his superiors to continue working on a project that was not aligned with CERNs primary research objectives, his experimentation developed into the common HTML language, the shared information transfer protocol of HTTP, and the URL conventions we know today. The “WorldWideWeb” application was the first hypermedia browser, allowing users to create and navigate links between files across a network of computers. The modern World Wide Web is what makes the internet widely accessible, and now irreplaceable to the masses.

You can read more details about the original WorldWide Web application and even run a recreated version of the WorldWideWeb browser at CERN 2019 WorldWideWeb Rebuild 2019

The upcoming Sotheby’s auction will include the code for the WorldWideWeb browser, a letter from Berners-Lee, a vector file of a signed poster displaying WorldWideWeb code, and a 30-minute video of the code being typed out. All proceeds of this auction will be donated to initiatives supported by Berners-Lee and his wife.

Berners-Lee states in the Sothebys press release that NFTs are “the latest playful creations” on the internet and “the ideal way to package the origins behind the web.”

Sotheby’s Auction Detailed Description:

OWNER: Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, b. 1955

Source Code for the WWW


Work includes:

Original archive of dated and time-stamped files containing the source code, written between 3 October 1990 and 24 August 1991. These files contain code with approximately 9,555 lines, the contents of which include implementations of the three languages and protocols invented by Sir Tim; HTML (Hypertext Markup Language); HTTP (Hyper Transfer Protocol); and URIs (Uniform Resource Identifiers), as well as the original HTML documents that instructed early web users on how to use the application

Animated visualization of the code being written (Video, black & white, silent), lasting 30 minutes 25 seconds

An Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) representation of the full code (A0 841mm wide by 1189 mm high), created by Sir Tim from the original files using Python, with a graphic representation of his physical signature at lower right

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

Non-fungible Token ERC-721

Minted on June 15, 2021, ed. 1/1

Smart Contract Address: 0x86ade256037d80d6d42df8df96d5be21cd25bd8f

Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) representation of the full code

Sotheby’s Catalogue note:


Invented by Sir Tim Berners-Lee in 1989, the “WorldWideWeb” application was the first hypermedia browser/editor, allowing users to create and navigate links between files across a network of computers. It was written in the Objective C programming language, using the Interface Builder on a NeXT computer, a highly influential and innovative computer designed by Steve Jobs in between the time he was forced out of Apple in 1985 and when he rejoined in 1997.

Over the past several centuries, humankind has seen a succession of paradigm shifts that have brought us forward into the Modern Era; Galileo’s proof of Heliocentricity, Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to name a few, but none has had as seismic of an impact on our daily lives as the creation of the World Wide Web. Sir Tim’s invention changed everything, and created an entirely new world, democratizing the sharing of information, and creating new ways of thinking, interacting, and staying connected to one another.

With physical artifacts such as books, one can quantify and prove rarity; take for example, a first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, of which 2000 copies were printed of the first edition in June of 1859, and for which one original hand-written manuscript exists. Thanks to physical evidence, we can verify and prove the authenticity of the one hand-written manuscript, as well as distinguish between true first editions of the work and later copies; but how to do so with a digital-native artefact such as this? Until very recently, selling a digital-born artifact was not a possibility, however the advent of NFTs has now made this possible, allowing the buyer to prove that the files on offer here are the original, digital- born manuscript for the greatest and most consequential invention of modern times, direct from Sir Tim Berners-Lee, their creator.

Sir Tim has always said, when asked, that he does not make predictions about the future of the web, but he feels that it will surely be more creative and powerful than what we can now imagine. Technology evolves into new shapes and new forms all the time in an open environment like the web. New forms of digital artifacts and artworks like NFTs are some of the newest iterations of playful creation in the realm of linking, identifying, artistry and creation in the web space.

Using blockchain technology, NFTs endow digital files with provable scarcity. While every piece of digital media is infinitely reproducible, an NFT is not. There is only one NFT and one corresponding owner. Acting as a form of certification for digital files, an NFT confers uniqueness onto those files and makes it possible for them to be owned. As the most digitally native means of ownership that exists, it is the ideal way to package this representation of the source code for the web, representing a perfect fit between medium and content.

This NFT is historic and singular, but, the code for the web and its use, knowledge, power, potential will remain open and available to us all to continue to innovate, create and initiate the next technological transformation that will be built upon what we see today, that we cannot yet imagine.

As Sir Tim notes at the end of the letter he has written to accompany the files, “It has been fun to go back and look over the code. It is amazing to see the things that those relatively few lines of code, with a help of an amazing growing gang of collaborators across the planet, stayed enough on track to become what the web is now. I have never once felt I could relax and sit back -- as the web was and is constantly changing. It is not yet the best it can be: there is always work to be done!”

We all owe tremendous thanks to Tim Berners Lee. Not just for the individual effort made building the WWW, but for designing it with a mind to make information free, in a completely unselfish effort to give the world the ability to spread knowledge and solve problems. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of interest in such a historical NFT auction which focuses on one of the most transformative creations of all time, by one of the most influential people our world has ever known. See you there!

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