Web Inventor Berners-Lee Will Auction Original Source Code As NFT

The original source code that was written by London computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee is going up for sale at Sotheby’s Online Auction as a non-fungible token (NFT).

“The idea is somebody might like a digitally signed version of the code, a bit like plenty of people have asked for physically autographed copies of the book,” Berners-Lee told Financial Times (FT).

The world wide web source code and browser developed by Berners-Lee were never patented and have long been in the public domain. Sotheby’s auction will be the first time the inventor could reap financial gains from his groundbreaking code, per FT.

Berners-Lee, 66, told FT that the auction was an “opportunity to look back . . . 30 years on from the initial code, which was very, very simple, to the state [of the web] now, which has some wonderfully simple aspects to it but also has a lot of issues of various sorts.”

He told FT that his initial vision for the web was a connection of personal pages, not directed by big business. “It was supposed to be individually empowering.” 

He added that digital monopolies “automatically hamper innovation” and he sees will be a “huge backlash” from individual web users.

Berners-Lee is now the chief technology officer at Inrupt, which is in the early stages of planning its “first serious round” of fundraising, he told FT. Inrupt is using his Solid framework for the creation of commercial applications, some of which are being tested by the government in Flanders and the U.K. National Health System.

NFTs started taking off in March after digital artist Beeple sold an NFT piece of artwork for $69 million and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey sold his first tweet as an NFT for $2.9 million. The New York Times sold an NFT for more than $500,000, and columnist Kevin Roose put his column up for sale as an NFT.

NFT values quadrupled to $250 million in 2020 but in March alone of this year, sales hit over $220 million. Values have since plummeted, cycling with the ups and downs of the cryptocurrency market.