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Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee gets $5.4 million for an NFT of his code

Sotheby’s online auction proceeds will go to charity

The source code written by World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee sold as a digital work of art Wednesday in an auction for $5.4 million. The code was previewed last week at the Sotheby's auction house.TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

The inventor of the World Wide Web raised more than $5.4 million for charity by selling his software code as a digital work of art.

Tim Berners-Lee sold 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 sold for $5,434,500 in an auction conducted online by Sotheby’s on Wednesday. Proceeds will benefit initiatives supported by Berners-Lee and his wife, the auction house has 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. The winner also gets an animated video of the code scrolling across the screen and a letter written by Berners-Lee earlier this month discussing his creation.

Aaron Pressman can be reached at Follow him @ampressman.