The inventor of the World Wide Web is looking to cash in on one of the hottest trends in digital artworks.
Tim Berners-Lee, who wrote the software underlying the Internet, is selling a computer file containing that original programming code plus a unique encryption signature as a form of collectible known as a nonfungible token, or NFT. The token will be sold at auction by Sotheby’s starting June 23 and running until June 30. Proceeds will benefit initiatives supported by Berners-Lee and his wife, the auction house said.
Earlier this year, nonfungible tokens were among the hottest investments in the art world, culminating in March when auction house Christie’s sold an NFT linked to a digital work called “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” by the artist Beeple for over $69 million. NFTs, which rely on the same technology underlying digital currencies such as bitcoin and ethereum, have been created and sold, linked to everything from video clips of NBA players dunking to online cartoon cats, though the market has slumped somewhat since the Christie’s sale.
In most cases, NFTs include a pointer to the web address where the digital artworks, video clips, or other materials are posted publicly on the Internet. Berners-Lee’s NFT will include the 9,555 lines of code he wrote between October 1990 and August 1991 that created HyperText Markup Language, the foundation of every page on the web. Berners-Lee wrote the code on a NeXT Computer, the short-lived effort by the late Apple chief executive Steve Jobs to create his own computer company in the 1980s.
”It has been fun to go back and look over the code,” Berners-Lee wrote in a letter that will accompany the NFT. “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.”
Berners-Lee, who has taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since the mid-1990s, ischief technology officer at Boston startup Inrupt, which is developing ways to better protect personal data online.