The Original Files Containing the Source Code for the World Wide Web, offered as an NFT

Invented by Sir Tim Berners-Lee in 1989, the “WorldWideWeb” application was the first hypermedia browser/editor, allowing users to create and navigate links between files across a network of computers. It was written in the Objective C programming language, using the Interface Builder on a NeXT computer, a highly influential and innovative computer designed by Steve Jobs in between the time he was forced out of Apple in 1985 and when he rejoined in 1997.

Over the past several centuries, humankind has seen a succession of paradigm shifts that have brought us forward into the Modern Era; Galileo’s proof of Heliocentricity, Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to name a few, but none has had as seismic of an impact on our daily lives as the creation of the World Wide Web. Sir Tim’s invention changed everything, and created an entirely new world, democratizing the sharing of information, and creating new ways of thinking, interacting, and staying connected to one another.

A visualization of the full WWW code

With physical artifacts such as books, one can quantify and prove rarity; take for example, a first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, of which 2000 copies were printed of the first edition in June of 1859, and for which one original hand-written manuscript exists. Thanks to physical evidence, we can verify and prove the authenticity of the one hand-written manuscript, as well as distinguish between true first editions of the work and later copies; but how to do so with a digital-native artefact such as this? Until very recently, selling a digital-born artifact was not a possibility, however the advent of NFTs has now made this possible, allowing the buyer to prove that the files on offer here are the original, digital- born manuscript for the greatest and most consequential invention of modern times, direct from Sir Tim Berners-Lee, their creator.

Sir Tim has always said, when asked, that he does not make predictions about the future of the web, but he feels that it will surely be more creative and powerful than what we can now imagine. Technology evolves into new shapes and new forms all the time in an open environment like the web. New forms of digital artifacts and artworks like NFTs are some of the newest iterations of playful creation in the realm of linking, identifying, artistry and creation in the web space.

June 2021 letter from Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Using blockchain technology, NFTs endow digital files with provable scarcity. While every piece of digital media is infinitely reproducible, an NFT is not. There is only one NFT and one corresponding owner. Acting as a form of certification for digital files, an NFT confers uniqueness onto those files and makes it possible for them to be owned. As the most digitally native means of ownership that exists, it is the ideal way to package this representation of the source code for the web, representing a perfect fit between medium and content.

This NFT is historic and singular, but, the code for the web and its use, knowledge, power, potential will remain open and available to us all to continue to innovate, create and initiate the next technological transformation that will be built upon what we see today, that we cannot yet imagine.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee

As Sir Tim notes at the end of the letter he has written to accompany the files, “It has been fun to go back and look over the code. 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. I have never once felt I could relax and sit back -- as the web was and is constantly changing. It is not yet the best it can be: there is always work to be done!”