Following in the footsteps of Tim Berners-Lee and others, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales is auctioning off a piece of internet history. Starting today, you can bid in a Christie’s auction to obtain an NFT of his first Wikipedia edit. Wales is also auctioning off the Apple iMac he used to work on the website. Bidding on the non-fungible token will start at $100, though we expect it will take several million to secure it before the auction ends on December 15th. Proceeds from the sale will go to charity and WT Social, Wales’ Facebook and Twitter alternative.
In an interview with The Verge, the internet entrepreneur said he wanted to package his first Wikipedia edit as an NFT in part because of the way the technology publicly records and verifies ownership. “I think what is specifically interesting is that for the first time, we have a publicly distributed, immutable kind of database, and that’s new and different,” he told the outlet.
It’s also a way to give people a window into the early days of Wikipedia. Once the auction is complete, the NFT will grant its new owner control of a single webpage. Just like Wikipedia as it exists today, anyone can edit that webpage to change what it says. However, after five minutes, it will revert to its original state, with a single entry stating, “Hello, World!”
“What you see displayed is what Wikipedia looked like at the moment that I set up the software,” Wales said. “The artistic concept is to take people back to that moment when I set up the website and had to think, ‘Gosh, this is so vulnerable. Like anybody can edit. It might just destroy the whole thing, and I’ll be taken over by trolls in five minutes.’”
The NFT will give its eventual owner the ability to change the editing window. They’ll also have the option to turn off editing and, if they’re really dull, the power to shut down the webpage. “With everything on Wikipedia, it’s freely licensed,” Wales said of the project. “So if you want to do anything, you pretty much can.”
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