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

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 winning bidder 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 researcher 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: The error found by Hypponen appears to be in the animated visualization of the code. A developer noticed that the source is correct in the image of the code. They suggested that the mistake was the result of using a web service to pretend to type the text seen in the video.

The enormous winning bid shows there’s still life left in the market. But it also further exposes what a weird market it is. Still, the NFT’s owner could find the error adds its own strange sense of value, as cyber reporter Joe Tidy noted:

The NFT certainly isn’t worth $5.4 million to me, with or without errors in the code. The owner will obviously 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.


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