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This article was published on July 1, 2021

NFT of web’s original source code sells for $5.4M — but contains errors (lol)


NFT of web’s original source code sells for $5.4M — but contains errors (lol) Image by: Paul Clarke/Markus Spiske — edited

Sir Tim Berners-Lee has sold an NFT of the original source code for the world wide web for an eye-watering $5.4 million, but the buyer could be in for an unpleasant surprise: a security researcher has spotted errors in the code.

Up front: The NFT market exploded in 2021, bagging artists and celebrities whopping sums for digital tokens that authenticate ownership of collectibles.

Berners-Lee hopped on the bandwagon amid signs that the bubble was about to burst. He auctioned off an NFT representing this bundle of items:

  • The original archive of dated and time-stamped files containing the source code
  • A Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) representation of the full code
  • A letter he wrote reflecting upon the code and his process of creating it
  • An animated visualization of the code being written

The winning bidder, however, may not be getting exactly what they expected. Security expert Mikko Hypponen spotted some errors in the code.

“Hold on…the www source that Sotheby is auctioning? The angle brackets are wrong!” he tweeted. “They’ve been — yes — HTML encoded from ‘< >’ to ‘&lt; &gt;’. Lol.”

Quick take: Hypponen found the errors in the animated visualization of the code.

“The NFT consists of multiple components, and the code seems to be fine everywhere else, but the video seems to have all special characters encoded,” Hypponen told TNW via email.

“Such code would not work and could not be compiled. Who knows, such an error might make this thing even more collectible for collectors. ”

A developer suggested that the mistakes were the result of using a web service to pretend to type the text in the video.

The enormous winning bid shows there’s still life left in the NFT market. But it also further exposes what a weird market it is. Still, the token’s owner could find the blunder adds its own strange sense of value.

The NFT’s $5.4 million price-tag seems excessive, with or without buggy code. The owner will prove me wrong if they resell it for a higher fee, but that’s hard for me to imagine — which might be why I’m writing about NFTs rather than investing fortunes in them. Regardless, I hope they enjoy their ludicrously expensive new certificate.

Update (2:30PM CET, July 1, 2021): Added comment from Mikko Hypponen.

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