TED (conference)

TED (conference)


TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a non-profit media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading”. TED was founded in February 1984 as a conference, which has been held annually since 1990. TED’s early emphasis was technology and design, consistent with its Silicon Valley origins, but it has since broadened its focus to includ e talks on many scientific, cultural, and academic topics.

The main TED conference is held annually in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Prior to 2014, the conference was held in Long Beach. TED events are also held throughout North America and in Europe and Asia, offering live streaming of the talks. They address a wide range of topics within the research and practice of science and culture, often through storytelling. The speakers are given a maximum of 18 minutes to present their ideas in the most innovative and engaging ways they can. Past speakers includ e Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, Al Gore, Gordon Brown, Billy Graham, Richard Dawkins, Bill Gates, Bono, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and many Nobel Prize winners. TED’s current curator is the British former computer journalist and magazine publisher Chris Anderson.
Since June 2006, the talks have been offered for free viewing online, under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives Creative Commons license, through TED.com. As of March 2016, over 2,400 talks are freely available on the website. In June 2011, the talks’ combined viewing figure stood at more than 500 million, and by November 2012, TED talks had been watched over one billion times worldwide. Not all TED talks are equally popular, however. Those given by academics tend to be watched more online, and art and design videos tend to be watched less than average.


1984-99: Founding and early years

Bill Clinton addresses TED, 2007

TED was conceived in 1984 by architect and graphic designer Richard Saul Wurman, who observed a convergence of the fields of technology, entertainment, and design (that is, “TED”). The first conference, organized by Harry Marks and Wurman in the same year, featured demos of the compact disc, co-developed by Philips and Sony and one of the first demonstrations of the Apple Macintoshcomputer. Presentations were given by famous mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot and influential members of the digerati community, like Nicholas Negroponte and Stewart Brand. The event was financially unsuccessful; it took six years before the second conference was organized.

From 1990 onward, a growing community of “TEDsters” gathered annually at the event in California State University Monterey Bay, until 2009, when it was relocated to Long Beach, California due to a substantial increase in attendees. Initially, the speakers had been drawn from the fields of expertise behind the acronym TED, but during the nineties, the roster of presenters broadened to includ e scientists, philosophers, musicians, religious leaders, philanthropists, and many others.


2000-16: Recent growth

In 2000, Wurman, looking for a successor at age 65, met with new-media entrepreneur and TED enthusiast Chris Anderson to discuss future happenings. Anderson’s UK media company Future bought TED. And, In November 2001, Anderson’s non-profit The Sapling Foundation (motto: “fostering the spread of great ideas.”) acquired TED from Future for £6m. In February 2002, Anderson gave a TEDTalk in which he explained his vision of the conference and his future role of curator. Wurman left after the 2002 conference.

In 2006, attendance cost was $4,400 per person and was by invitation only. The membership model was shifted in January 2007 to an annual membership fee of $6,000, which includ es attendance of the conference, club mailings, networking tools, and conference DVDs. The 2017 conference will be $17,000 per attendee.

In 2014, the conference was relocated to Vancouver.

TED is currently funded by a combination of various revenue streams, including conference attendance fees, corporate sponsorships, foundation support, licensing fees, and book sales. Corporate sponsorships are diverse, provided by companies such as Google, GE, AOL, Goldman Sachs, The Coca-Cola Company; among others. Sponsors do not participate in the creative direction of the event, nor are they allowed to present on the main stage, in the interests of journalistic independence.

The TED staff consists of about 140 people headquartered in New York City and Vancouver.


TED Prize

The TED Prize was introduced in 2005. Until 2010, it annually granted three individuals $100,000 and a “wish to change the world”. Each winner unveils their wish at the main annual conference. Since 2010, in a changed selection process, a single winner is chosen to ensure that TED can maximize its efforts in achieving the winner’s wish. In 2012, the Prize was not awarded to an individual, but to a concept connected to the current global phenomenon of increasing urbanization. In 2013, the prize amount was increased to $1 million. TED Prize winners in previous years:


Related projects and events


In 2005, under Anderson’s supervision, a more internationally oriented sister conference was added, under the name TEDGlobal. It was held, in chronological order: in Oxford, UK (2005), in Arusha, Tanzania (2007, titled “TEDAfrica), in Oxford again (2009 and 2010) and in Edinburgh, Scotland (2011, 2012 and 2013). In 2014, it was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.Additionally, there was TED India, in Mysore (2009).

TED’s European director (and curator of TEDGlobal) is Swiss-born Bruno Giussani.

The Open Translation Project (OTP)

TED Open Translation Project started in May 2009, and aims to “[reach] out to the 4.5 billion people on the planet who don’t speak English,” according to TED Curator Chris Anderson. The OTP utilizes crowd-based subtitling platforms to translate the text of TED and TED-Ed videos, as well as to caption and translate videos created in the TEDx program (with its technology partner dotSUB until May 2012, and recently with open source translation tool Amara). At the time of the launch, 300 translations had been done by 200 volunteer transcribers in 40 languages. In May 2015, over 70,000 sets of subtitles in 107 languages had been completed by (an all-time total of) 38,173 volunteer translators.

The project contributed to a significant increase in international visitors to TED’s website, with traffic from outside the US growing 350 percent, 600 percent growth in Asia, and more than 1000 percent in South America.

Members have several tools dedicated to knowledge management, such as the OTP Wiki OTPedia, Facebook groups, or video tutorials.


List of TEDx conferences

A TEDx talk in Windham, New Hampshire, in May 2015

TEDx are independent TED-like events, which can be organized by anyone who obtains a free license from TED, agreeing to follow certain principles. TEDx events are non-profit, but may use an admission fee or commercial sponsorship to cover costs. Similarly, speakers are not paid. They must also relinquish the copyrights to their materials, which TED may edit and distribute under a Creative Commons license.

As of January 2014, TEDx talk library contained some 30,000 films and presentations from over 130 countries In March 2013, eight TEDx events were organised every day; raised up from five in June 2012, the previous year, in 133 countries. TEDx presentations also includ e live performances, which are catalogued in the TEDx Music Project. In 2011, TED began a program called “TEDx in a Box” that allows people in developing countries to hold TEDx events. TEDx also expanded to includ e TEDxYouth events, TEDx corporate events and TEDxWomen.[ TEDxYouth events are independent programs set up for students roughly between 7–12 grades. These events usually have people closer to the age of the students and sometimes show TED Talks. According to TEDxSanta Cruz, “as of 2015, over 1,500 [TEDx events] have been scheduled all over the world”.

TED Fellows[edit]

TEDGlobal 2012 at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre

TED Fellows were introduced in 2007, during the first TEDAfrica conference in Arusha, Tanzania, where 100 young people were selected from across the continent. Two years later, during TEDIndia, 99 Fellows were recruited, mainly from South Asia. In 2009, the Fellows program was initiated in its present form. For every TED or TEDGlobal conference, 20 Fellows are selected out of more than 1200 applicants; a total of 40 new Fellows a year. Out of the 40 Fellows selected in the previous year, 15 people are chosen each year to participate in the two-year Senior Fellows program (in which they will attend four more conferences). Hence, every year, there are 40 new Fellows plus 30 Senior Fellows from the two previous years.

Acceptance as a Fellow is not based on academic credentials, but mainly on past and current actions, and plans for the future.Besides attending a conference free of charge, each Fellow takes part in a special program with mentoring by experts in the field of spreading ideas, and he or she can give a short talk on the “TED Fellows” or “TED University” stage, the day before the conference starts. Some of these talks are subsequently published on TED.com. Senior Fellows have additional benefits and responsibilities (like hosting a TEDx event for 50+ people).