The Internet of Blings? Sotheby’s Sells the Source Code for the World Wide Web for $5.4 Million

The sale, titled "This Changed Everything," welcomed 51 bidders.

Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web. Courtesy of Sotheby's.
Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

“Information wants to be free” has long been a mantra of internet culture. Turns out, in the age of NFTs this may no longer be the case, as Sotheby’s just auctioned off the original source code for the World Wide Web for $5.4 million. The NFT-based lot was sold by “inventor of the internet” Tim Berners-Lee himself.

For the single-lot sale titled “This Changed Everything,” Berners-Lee offered the original time-stamped files containing the source code, a more than 30-minute animated visualization of the code itself, a letter Berners-Lee wrote reflecting on the process of creating the code and its impact, and a “digital poster” of the work featuring a graphic of Berners-Lee’s signature.

Bidding for the work started at just $1,000. Two days ago, the high bid sat at $2.8 million. A few hours ago, tweets revealed that bidding had notched the price up to $3.5 million.

After a final total of 51 bids, the lot went for $5.4 million with fees just about 10 minutes before the sale closed. A portion of the proceeds will go to charities of Mr. Berners-Lee’s choice.

The autographed poster by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, auctioned as part of the NFT sale. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

The autographed poster by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, auctioned as part of the NFT sale. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

In press materials, the auction house compared the invention of the World Wide Web to Gutenberg’s printing press and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. However, said Cassandra Hatton, global head of Sotheby’s science and pop culture division, “none has had the seismic impact on our daily lives as the creation of the World Wide Web.”

“We couldn’t have sold this 10 years ago, but now NFTs have enabled us to do it,” Hatton told the New York Times. “Previously in the history of science you had manuscripts you could hold in your hand. As we move forward, more and more of these manuscripts are created in a digital format.”

The price tag for the source code places it firmly in the pantheon of the most expensive NFTs ever sold, tying for fourth place, fetching the same price as Edward Snowden’s NFT artwork consisting of court documentation deciding that the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance practice violated the law, overlaid with a portrait of Snowden by artist Platon.

Beeple, aka Mike Winklemann’s Crossroads, which sold for $6.6 million in February holds the third place slot; CryptoPunk 7523, a masked Alien punk by Larva Labs sold for $11.8 million in June as part of the recent Natively Digital auction at Sotheby’s, and of course, Everydays—The First 5000 Dayswhich sold for a whopping $69 million in March at Christie’s remains in the first place position.


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