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Someone shelled out millions of dollars to “own” a piece of internet history.
According to CNBC, the original source code for the world wide web was sold as a non-fungible token (NFT)—a crypto asset that attributes ownership of a digital property, such as images, audio, and video. Tim Berners-Lee, the computer scientist who wrote the code, sold the NFT during an online Sotheby’s auction on Wednesday, racking in a whopping $5.4 million. The winning bidder will reportedly receive time-stamped files of the source code, a 30-minute animated visual of the code, a digital “poster” of the full code, as well as a letter written by Berners-Lee about the code’s creation.
“This is totally aligned with the values of the web,” Berners-Lee told the Guardian just a day after the auction kicked off. “The questions I’ve got, they said: ‘Oh, that doesn’t sound like the free and open web.’ Well, wait a minute, the web is just as free and just as open as it always was. The core codes and protocols on the web are royalty free, just as they always have been. I’m not selling the web – you won’t have to start paying money to follow links.
Berners-Lee suggested the NFT—titled “This Changed Everything”—wasn’t as significant as some made it out to be, as the source code is still public domain.
“I’m not even selling the source code. I’m selling a picture that I made, with a Python programme that I wrote myself, of what the source code would look like if it was stuck on the wall and signed by me,” he said, before touching on some of the criticism surrounding the auction. “If they felt that me selling an NFT of a poster is inappropriate, then what about me selling a book? I do things like that, which involve money, but the free and open web is still free and open. And we do still, every now and again, have to fight to keep it free and open, fight for net neutrality and so on.”
The individual who purchased the NFT has not been identified. Proceeds from the sale will reportedly go to a charity selected by Berners-Lee and his family.