Wikipedia's wiped edit

Yesterday I was surprised to see widespread headlines that Wikipedia's "first edit" was being auctioned as a NFT. That wasn't right, and I wondered what this meant for an ongoing auction?

I know people will try to auction most anything now, but I was taken aback to see this screenshot, which was not the first recorded edit to Wikipedia.

Christie's screen shot of recollected Wikipedia

Early Wikipedia edits had been lost for a number of years, and when Tim Starling rediscovered them in 2010, I reconstructed them as the 10k redux archive. From this, I knew the first recorded edit to Wikipedia was "This is the new WikiPedia!" and not "Hello, World!" as Christie's and the news articles were claiming -- repeating Wales's earlier recollections. You can also see this first edit on today's Wikipedia as the lost edits to the first page, HomePage, were imported in 2019.

Jimmy Wales has clarified that this auction is for an "artistic recreation of the original" based on his recollection of the first thing he typed and immediately wiped -- on the server itself, hence no record. I was concerned that even if this was the case, the original time stamp on the recreation (7:29 PM in the image above) confused things about the actual history because it was after the first recorded edit (7:27:13 PM). He's now updated his NFT recreation to show "6:29 pm," which is 58 minutes before the first recorded edit.

We all know headlines suck, but an accurate presentation of this would be "Wales's re-creation of his recollection of the wiped test edit." That satisfies things on the historical front.

On the NFT front, though, this prompts other questions:

  1. People have already bid on this item, which has been changed! (When does the actual digital fingerprint get taken and added to the NFT blockchain?) Could someone bid on something, and see it undergo extraordinary changes beyond a timestamp? Is that legal?
  2. What kind of provenance due-diligence does Christie's due on NFTs? Do they check if the NFT is of a copyrighted work someone else's owns? (See this discussion of licensing.) Or check that it is what it purports to be?

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