Investors in cryptocurrencies and digital collectors have considered the original source code for the web more valuable than the first tweet but less desirable than a pixelated punk.
A “Non-fungible token” which represents Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s invention of the web sold for $ 5.4 million at auction on Wednesday. The winning bidder was not immediately identified.
The auction at Sotheby’s ranks digital art, called “This has changed everything.”, among the most valuable NFTs ever sold. However, the high-profile item dropped tens of millions of dollars alongside the high-water mark set by digital artist Beeple three months ago amid signs of interest in virtual collections that may already be declining.
The final value exceeds the $ 2.9 million price paid for an NFT of Jack Dorsey’s first tweet, which the Twitter co-founder sold at auction in March. But it’s much less than $ 69ma investor in cryptocurrency paid for “Every Day: The First 5000 Days” of March Beeple.
Earlier this month, a CryptoPunk – one of the first digital collection series – was sold for $ 11.8 million at another SOTheby’s NFT auction. Two other CryptoPunks, which look like a graphic from a first video game, have been sold for more than $ 7m per piece.
The lot of the British scientist consisted of an archive of printed files for the WorldWideWeb browser, a 30-minute animation and digital “poster” of the code, and a letter from Berners-Lee explaining the background of his invention.
Berners-Lee said in a statement that the process has “offered me the opportunity to look back in time to the time I set out to write this code 30 years ago, and reflect on how far the process has gone. web since then, and where it could go in the decades to come ”.
“I am pleased that Rosemary’s initiatives and support will benefit you from the sale of this NFT,” he said.
While the inventor of the web compared the token to an autographed book, Sotheby’s hoped that collectors would evaluate the digital item in terms similar to a scientific artifact.
Berners-Lee’s code package exceeded the sums paid for manuscripts written by Alan Turing and Albert Einstein in past sales of scientific memoirs. The price corresponds to that of an NFT operation by NSA complainant Edward Snowden, which sold for $ 5.4 million in April.
More than 50 bids were placed from around the world during Berners-Lee’s NFT weekly auction. “The great reception we had in response to the auction is a fitting tribute to the genius of a man who changed our world forever,” said Cassandra Hatton, global leader of science and popular culture at Sotheby’s .
NFTs use blockchain technology to bring scarcity, traceability and authentication to the digital world, where media can be copied endlessly.
The technical foundations of the web were never patented but released for free in the public domain by Cern, the particle physics lab in Switzerland where Berners-Lee worked when he got the idea.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on digital collections so far this year, although activity has declined from the peak of March next to a broader one. sell-off in cryptocurrencies and a series of regulatory clampdowns on bitcoin.