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Bidding For The ‘Big Bang’ Of The Internet — And Perhaps NFTs’  Future

For what might be thought of as the Big Bang of the Web, the bidding starts at $1,000.

And how high the auction goes … well, that might signal whether non-fungible tokens (NFTs) will remain buoyant or mark the passing of a fad.

CNBC reports that Sotheby’s, the venerable auction house, will hold an auction later this month that will feature the World Wide Web NFT — i.e., the original code for the first web browser. That code comes courtesy of Tim Berners-Lee, who is auctioning it off with the intent of raising money for various initiatives, Sotheby’s said in a news release announcing the auction.

The NFT, Sotheby’s detailed, contains four elements: The original time-stamped files containing the source code written by Berners-Lee; an animated visualization of the code; a letter written by Berners-Lee reflecting on the code and the process of creating it; and a  digital “poster” of the full code. All of the elements are being “digitally signed” by their creator.

At a high level, it’s 9,555 lines of code that are the building blocks and the foundations of HTTP and HTML and URIs … which of course are the elements of the Web that allow you, the reader, to be perusing these words, at this moment, right up to the period at the end of this sentence. The writer wrote it in Word, sent it to copy editors, dropped it into publishing programs, hit a few buttons … and here we are. Pretty much for all time.

‘A Natural Thing’ 

Berners-Lee asked the key question and gave an answer in a statement that accompanied the news: “Why an NFT? Well, it’s a natural thing to do as when you’re a computer scientist and when you write code and have been for many years. It feels right to digitally sign my autograph on a completely digital artefact.”

Famously, Berners-Lee never really made money off his creation that changed the world — at least not until he was awarded the Millennium Technology Prize last decade (for $1.2 million). One wonders whether the NFT auction, if it is stratospheric, might convince him to take at least … well, something … and live it up.

The idea, and the reality, of a “completely digital artefact” has been the tailwind for NFTs in general. And we’ve seen the scarcity value, the ownership cachet, help spur bidding for everything from memes to videos to tweets to art. You’ll no doubt recall the digital-only art piece by Beeple which sold recently for $69 million.

It’s a sure bet that the final price for the WWW code will soar, well beyond the $1,000 that marks the opening. How high it will go, well, nobody knows. We contend that, if a meme can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars, then the very creations that enable that meme — immortalized as a digital collectible — would fetch much (likely multiples) more. The DNA of what has become the standard of creation for something that we all use must have considerable value.

But, as CNBC noted, the frenzy around NFTs may be abating a bit, as overall sales in that corner of commerce that peaked at $176 million as measured, weekly, back in May, and the tally has fallen to $8.7 million as of the period that ended June 15.

“That means volumes are now roughly back where they were at the start of 2021,” the site stated.  It may the case that later this month, the excitement returns.

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