The blockchain-based token includes an animated version of Berners-Lee's nearly 10,000 lines of code and a letter from himself.
Tim Berners-Lee's source code for the World Wide Web sold for $5.4 million in the form of non-fungible token (NFT), a kind of crypto asset, which records ownership of digital items.
Sotheby's in New York organised the weeklong sale of the programme that paved the way for the internet we know today more than 30 years after its creation.
The lot included an animated version of Berners-Lee's nearly 10,000 lines of code and a letter from the British-born computer scientist himself.
"Ten years ago, we wouldn't have been able to do this," said Cassandra Hatton, vice-president at Sotheby's, referring to the recent boom in NFTs.
Hatton said this work is unique because of its importance for the creation of the World Wide Web.
"That changed every aspect of your life," Hatton said.
"We don't even fully comprehend the impact that it has on our lives, and the impact that we will continue to have on our lives."
#AuctionUpdate One of the most historically significant digital artefacts ever sold, an NFT of the source code for the Web has brought $5.4 million. Offered by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, proceeds will benefit initiatives that Sir Tim & Lady Berners-Lee support.#ThisChangedEverything— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) June 30, 2021
In 1989, physicist-turned-computer-scientist Berners-Lee envisioned a system of information sharing that would allow scientists to access data from anywhere in the world.
At the time, he was an employee of the CERN Data Center — originally the European Council for Nuclear Research, now the European Organization for Nuclear Research — in Geneva.
He named the new network the World Wide Web (WWW).
In 1990 and 1991, he wrote the programme that created the first internet browser, laying the practical foundations for the current web.
In the process, he also invented the URL internet address; HTTP, which allows users to find a site; and HTML, the standard coding language for creating websites.
Determined to make the web an open space, Berners-Lee did not patent his programme but left it freely available to everyone, which contributed to its spread.
A little more than three decades after its invention, Berners-Lee put the original programme files up for sale as a collector's item.
At the end of the auction, he will receive part of the sale profit, but he intends to donate all of his proceeds to charity.
An NFT is a digital object such as a drawing, animation, piece of music, photo or video with a certificate of authenticity created by blockchain technology that underlies cryptocurrency.
It cannot be forged or otherwise manipulated.
NFTs currently generate several hundred million dollars in transactions every month.
NFT exchanges take place in cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin on specialist sites, but traditional auction houses are seeking to capitalise on the phenomenon.