TED (conference)

TED Conferences LLC (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is an American media organization that posts talks online for free distribution under the slogan "ideas worth spreading". TED was conceived by Richard Saul Wurman in February 1984[5] as a conference; it has been held annually since 1990.[6] TED's early emphasis was on technology and design, consistent with its Silicon Valley origins. It has since broadened its perspective to include talks on many scientific, cultural, political, and academic topics.[7] It is owned and curated by Chris Anderson, a British-American businessman, through the Sapling Foundation.[1][8]

TED Conferences, LLC
Type of businessLLC
Type of site
Available inEnglish, multilingual subtitles, transcript
FoundedFebruary 23, 1984 (1984-02-23)
Area servedCanada
United States
OwnerSapling Foundation[1]
Founder(s)Harry Marks[2]
Richard Saul Wurman
Revenue US$66.2 million (2015)[3]
Alexa rank 1,224 (August 2018)[4]
  • February 23, 1984 (1984-02-23) (first conference)
  • February 22, 1990 (1990-02-22) (annual event)
Current statusActive

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, California, United States.[9] TED events are also held throughout North America and in Europe, Asia and Africa, 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.[10] The speakers are given a maximum of 18 minutes to present their ideas in the most innovative and engaging ways they can.[11] Past speakers include Bill Clinton, Sean M. Carroll, Elon Musk, Ray Dalio, Cédric Villani, Stephen Hawking, Jane Goodall, Al Gore, Temple Grandin, Shahrukh Khan, Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Billy Graham, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Bill Gates, Dolph Lundgren, Bob Weir, Shashi Tharoor, Bono, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Leana Wen, Pope Francis, and many Nobel Prize winners.[12] TED's current curator is Chris Anderson, a British-American businessman, computer journalist and magazine publisher.[13]

External video
Jimmy Wales: The birth of Wikipedia, TED (conference), 2005[14]
Chris Anderson: A vision for TED, TED (conference), 2002[15]

Since June 2006,[2] TED Talks have been offered for free viewing online, under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives Creative Commons license, through TED.com.[16] As of January 2018, over 2,600 TED Talks are freely available on the website.[17] In June 2011, TED Talks' combined viewing figure stood at more than 500 million,[18] and by November 2012, TED Talks had been watched over one billion times worldwide.[19] TED Talks given by academics tend to be watched more online while art and design videos tend to be watched less than average.[20]


1984–1999: Founding and early years

TED was conceived in 1984 by Emmy-winning broadcast and graphic designer Harry Marks, and architect and graphic designer Richard Saul Wurman, who observed a convergence of the fields of technology, entertainment, and design (that is, "TED").[21] The first conference, organized that same year by Marks and Wurman with help from Dr. Frank Stanton, featured demos of the compact disc, co-developed by Philips and Sony and one of the first demonstrations of the Apple Macintosh computer.[2][22] 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; hence, it took six years before the second conference was organized.[23]

TED2 was held at the Monterey Conference Center in California in 1990. From 1990 onward, a growing community of "TEDsters" gathered annually with Wurman leading the conference in Monterey until 2009,[24] when it was relocated to Long Beach, California due to a substantial increase in attendees.[25][26] 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 include scientists, philosophers, musicians, religious leaders, philanthropists, and many others.[23]

2000–2016: 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. In November 2001, Anderson's non-profit The Sapling Foundation (motto: "fostering the spread of great ideas")[1] acquired TED from Future for £6m.[27] In February 2002, Anderson gave a TED Talk in which he explained his vision of the conference and his future role of curator.[28] Wurman left after the 2002 conference.

In 2006, attendance cost was $4,400 per person and was by invitation only.[29] The membership model was shifted in January 2007 to an annual membership fee of $6,000, which includes attendance of the conference, club mailings, networking tools, and conference DVDs. The 2018 conference was $10,000 per attendee.[30]

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, and 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 independence.[31][32]

The TED staff consists of about 180 people headquartered in New York City and Vancouver.[33]

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".[34] 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.[35] TED Prize winners in previous years:

2005[36] 2006[37] 2007[38] 2008[39] 2009[40] 2010[41] 2011[42] 2012[43] 2013[44] 2014[45] 2015[46] 2016[47] 2017[48]
BonoLarry BrilliantBill ClintonNeil TurokSylvia EarleJamie OliverJRCity 2.0[49]Sugata MitraCharmian Gooch[50]David IsaySarah ParcakRaj Panjabi
Edward Burtynsky[51]Jehane NoujaimEdward O. WilsonDave EggersJill Tarter
Robert FischellCameron SinclairJames NachtweyKaren ArmstrongJosé Antonio Abreu

TED Conference commissioned New York artist Tom Shannon to create a prize sculpture to be given to all TED Prize winners. The sculpture consists of an eight-inch-diameter (20 cm) aluminum sphere magnetically levitated above a walnut disc. As of 2018 the Ted Prize has been recast as The Audacious Project.


In 2005, Chris Anderson hired June Cohen as Director of TED Media. In June 2006, after Cohen's idea of a TV show based on TED lectures was rejected by several networks, a selection of talks that had received the highest audience ratings was posted on the websites of TED, YouTube, and iTunes, under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0.[52][53] Initially, only a handful of talks were posted, to test if there was an audience for them. In January of the next year, the number of TED Talks on the site had grown to 44, and they had been viewed more than three million times. On the basis of that success, the organization pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into its video production operations and into the development of a website to showcase about 100 of the talks.[52][54]

In April 2007, the new TED.com was launched, developed by design firm Method. In subsequent years, the website has won many prizes, among which seven Webby Awards, iTunes' "Best Podcast of the Year" (2006–2010), the Communication Arts Interactive Award for "Information Design" in 2007, the OMMA Award for "video sharing" in 2008, the Web Visionary Award for "technical achievement" in 2008, The One Show Interactive Bronze Award in 2008, the AIGA Annual Design Competition (2009), and a Peabody Award in 2012.[55][56][57][58]

As of January 2018, over 2600 TED talks had been posted.[17] Every week 5 to 7 new talks are published. In January 2009, the then number of videos had been viewed 50 million times. In June 2011, the number of views totaled 500 million,[59] and on November 13, 2012, TED reached its billionth video view.[19] Chris Anderson in an interview in March 2012:

It used to be 800 people getting together once a year; now it's about a million people a day watching TED Talks online. When we first put up a few of the talks as an experiment, we got such impassioned responses that we decided to flip the organization on its head and think of ourselves not so much as a conference but as "ideas worth spreading," building a big website around it. The conference is still the engine, but the website is the amplifier that takes the ideas to the world.[60]

In March 2012, Netflix announced a deal to stream an initial series of 16 two-hour shows, consisting of TED Talks covering similar subjects, from multiple speakers. The content was made available to subscribers in the US, Canada, Latin America, the UK, and Ireland.[61] Hosted by Jami Floyd, TED Talks NYC debuted on NYC Life on March 21, 2012.[62]

TED Conferences

Date Conference Theme Location Notable speakers
April 15–19, 2019 TED 2019 Bigger than us Vancouver, BC
November 28–30, 2018 TEDWomen 2018 Showing up Palm Springs, CA
November 14–16, 2018 TEDMED 2018 Chaos+Clarity Palm Springs, CA
April 10–14, 2018 TED 2018 The Age of Amazement Vancouver, BC
November 1–3, 2017 TEDWomen 2017 Bridges New Orleans, LA
August 27–30, 2017 TEDGlobal 2017 Builders. Truth-tellers. Catalysts. Arusha, Tanzania
April 24-28-2017 TED 2017 The Future You Vancouver, BC
November 14, 2016 TEDYouth 2016 Made in the Future Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
October 26–28, 2016 TEDWomen 2016 It's about time. San Francisco, CA
June 26–30, 2016 TEDSummit 2016 Aim higher. Together. Banff, AB
February 15–19, 2016 TED 2016 Dream Vancouver, BC
November 14, 2015 TEDYouth 2015 Made in the Future Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
November 1–6, 2015 TED Talks Live Six nights of talks on Broadway Town Hall Theatre, NYC, NY
May 27–29, 2015 TEDWomen 2015 Momentum Monterey, CA
March 16–20, 2015 TED 2015 Truth and Dare Vancouver, BC
March 16–20, 2015 TEDActive 2015 Truth and Dare Whistler, BC
November 15, 2014 TEDYouth 2014 Worlds Imagined Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
October 6–10, 2014 TEDGlobal 2014 South! Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
February 25-March 1, 2013 TED 2013 The Young. The Wise. The Undiscovered. Long Beach, CA


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, UK (2011, 2012, and 2013). In 2014, it was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.[63] Additionally, there was TED India, in Mysore (2009) and TEDGlobal London in London (2015).[64] TEDGlobal 2017 was held again in Arusha, Tanzania and it was curated and hosted by Emeka Okafor.[65]

TED's European director (and curator of TEDGlobal) is Swiss-born Bruno Giussani.[66]

TED Translators (formerly The Open Translation Project (OTP))

TED Translators started as the TED Open Translation Project in May 2009. It intends to "[reach] out to the 4.5 billion people on the planet who don't speak English", according to TED Curator Chris Anderson.[67] The OTP used 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. (Until May 2012 it worked with its technology partner dotSUB, and then with the open source translation tool Amara). When the project was launched, 300 translations had been completed in 40 languages by 200 volunteer transcribers.[14] By May 2015, more than 70,000 sets of subtitles in 107 languages[68] had been completed by (an all-time total of) 38,173 volunteer translators.[69]

The project helped generate a significant increase in international visitors to TED's website. Traffic from outside the US has increased 350 percent: there has been 600 percent growth in Asia, and more than 1000 percent in South America.[70] Members have several tools dedicated to knowledge management, such as the OTP Wiki OTPedia, Facebook groups, or video tutorials.[71][72]


TEDx are independent events similar to TED in presentation. They can be organized by anyone who obtains a free license from TED, and agrees to follow certain principles.[73] TEDx events are required to be non-profit, but organizers may use an admission fee or commercial sponsorship to cover costs.[74] Speakers are not paid and must also relinquish the copyrights to their materials, which TED may edit and distribute under a Creative Commons license.[75]

As of January 2014, the TEDxTalks library contained some 30,000 films and presentations from more than 130 countries.[76][77] As of October 2017, the TEDx archive surpassed 100,000 talks.[78] In March 2013, eight TEDx events were organised every day; raised up from five in June 2012, the previous year, in 133 countries.[79][80] TEDx presentations may include live performances, which are catalogued in the TEDx Music Project.[81]

In 2011, TED began a program called "TEDx in a Box", which is intended to enable people in developing countries to hold TEDx events. TEDx also expanded to include TEDxYouth events, TEDx corporate events, and TEDxWomen. TEDxYouth events are independent programs set up for students who are in grades 7–12 grades.[82] These events usually have audiences of people close 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."[83]

TEDx events have evolved over time. Events such as TEDxBeaconStreet created TEDx Adventures for participants. People may sign up for free, hands-on experiences in their local communities, led by an expert.[84]

TED Fellows

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; a total of 40 new Fellows a year. Each year, 20 past Fellows are chosen to participate in the two-year Senior Fellows program (in which they will attend four more conferences).

2019 marks the tenth anniversary of the TED Fellows program. Three of the 2019 TED Fellows are members of the American Astronomical Society.[85]

Acceptance as a Fellow is not based on academic credentials, but mainly on past and current actions, and plans for the future.[86] 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" stage. Some of these talks are subsequently published on TED.com. Senior Fellows have additional benefits and responsibilities.[87]


TED-Ed is a YouTube channel from Ted which creates short animated educational videos aimed at children. It also has its own website.[88] TED-Ed lessons are created in collaboration with educators and animators. Current advisers for Ted-Ed lessons include Aaron Sams, Jackie Bezos, John Hunter, Jonathan Bergmann, Sir Ken Robinson, Melinda French Gates, and Salman Khan. It has over 10 million subscribers and over 1.5 billion views as of September 2019.

TED Interview

The TED Interview is a weekly podcast launched on October 16, 2018, during which Chris Anderson holds conversations[89] with speakers who have previously given a TED talk.[90], providing the guest a chance to speak in greater depth about their background, projects, motivation,[91] their re-evaluation of past experiences,[92][93] or plans for the future.

Each interview lasts between 45 minutes and about one hour. All podcasts are available on the TED website, in part together with transcripts, as well as through platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, TuneIn, Stitcher, RadioPublic, Castbox, iHeartRadio, and BBC Radio 4 Extra.

Season 1
No. in Season Title Airdate
1 Elizabeth Gilbert shows up for ... everything October 2018
2 David Deutsch on the infinite reach of knowledge October 2018
3 Sam Harris on using reason to build our morality October 2018
4 Dalia Mogahed on Islam in the world today November 2018
5 Steven Pinker on the case for optimism November 2018
6 Robin Steinberg’s quest to reform cash bail November 2018
7 Mellody Hobson challenges us to be color brave November 2018
8 Ray Kurzweil on what the future holds next December 2018
9 Daniel Kahneman wants you to doubt yourself. Here’s why December 2018
10 Sir Ken Robinson still wants an education revolution December 2018
Season 2
No. in Season Title Airdate
1 Bill Gates looks to the future May 2019
2 Amanda Palmer on radical truth telling May 2019
3 David Brooks on political healing May 2019
4 Kai-Fu Lee on the future of AI June 2019
5 Susan Cain takes us into the mind of the introvert June 2019
6 Andrew McAfee on the future of our economy June 2019
7 Sylvia Earle makes the case for our oceans June 2019
8 Monica Lewinsky argues for a bully-free world July 2019
9 Tim Ferriss on life-hacks and psychedelics July 2019
10 Yuval Noah Harari reveals the real dangers ahead July 2019
11 Johann Hari challenges the way we think about depression July 2019
Season 3
No. in Season Title Airdate
1 Dan Gilbert on the surprising science of happiness October 2019
2 Anil Seth explores the mystery of consciousness October 2019
3 Elif Shafak on the urgent power of storytelling October 2019
4 Michael Tubbs on politics as a force for good October 2019
5 Kate Raworth argues that rethinking economics can save our planet November 2019
6 Donald Hoffman has a radical new theory on how we experience reality November 2019
7 Frances Frei's three pillars of leadership November 2019


TEDMED is an annual conference concerned with health and medicine. It is an independent event operating under license from the nonprofit TED conference.[94]

TEDMED was founded in 1998 by TED's founder Ricky Wurman. After years of inactivity, in 2008 Wurman sold TEDMED to entrepreneur Marc Hodosh, who recreated and relaunched it. The first event under Hodosh's ownership was held in San Diego in October 2009. In January 2010, TED.com began including videos of TEDMED talks on the TED website.[94]

The second Hodosh-owned edition of TEDMED took place in October 2010, also in San Diego. It sold out for a second year and attracted notable healthcare leaders and Hollywood celebrities.[95]

In 2011, Jay Walker and a group of executives and investors purchased TEDMED from Hodosh for $16 million with future additional payments of as much as $9 million. The conference was then moved to Washington, DC.[96]


TEDWomen is a three-day conference.[97] Established in 2010, TEDWomen features speakers focused on women-oriented themes, including gender issues and reproductive health.[98][99] There are over 130 TEDWomen Talks available[100] to watch on the TED website. Past speakers include former president Jimmy Carter,[101] Hillary Clinton,[102] Sheryl Sandberg,[103] Madeleine Albright,[104] Nancy Pelosi[105] and Halla Tómasdóttir,[106][107] among others.


TEDYouth talks are aimed at middle school and high school students and feature information from youth innovators.[108]

Other programs

  • TED Books — These are original books from TED. The initiative began in January 2011 as an ebook series and re-launched in September 2014 with its first book in print.[109]
  • TedEd Clubs — An education based initiative to get young people (ages 8 to 18) to share their ideas with peers and others by giving a TED-like presentation on a topic. TED provides curricula and limited support for the Clubs free of charge.[110]
  • TED Salon — Smaller evening-length events with speakers and performers.[111]
  • TED Radio Hour — A radio podcast program hosted by Guy Raz and co-produced with NPR. Each episode uses multiple TED Talks to examine a common theme.[112] The first episode was broadcast in 2012.[113]
  • TED also offers other podcasts such as Sincerely, X (featuring anonymous TED Talks)[114] and Work / Life which discusses creative workplaces.[115]



Frank Swain,[116] a deaf journalist, refused to participate in a TEDx event without getting paid. He said that it is unacceptable that TED, which is a non-profit organization, charges TED attendees $6,000 but prohibits organisers of the smaller, independently-organized TEDx events from paying anything to speakers.[117] Speakers and performers at official TED events are not compensated for their talks.[118]

Sarah Lacy of BusinessWeek and TechCrunch wrote in 2010 that TED attendees complained of elitism from a "hierarchy of parties throughout the LA-area with strict lists and security" after the sessions. She gave TED credit for making talks free online or live streamed.[119]

TED Talk content

Disagreements have also occurred between TED speakers and organizers. In her 2010 TED Talk, comedian Sarah Silverman referred to adopting a "retarded" child. TED organizer Chris Anderson objected via his Twitter account, leading to a Twitter skirmish between them.[120][121]

Also in 2010, statistician Nassim Taleb called TED a "monstrosity that turns scientists and thinkers into low-level entertainers, like circus performers". He claimed TED curators did not initially post his talk "warning about the financial crisis" on their site on purely cosmetic grounds.[122]

Nick Hanauer spoke at TED University, challenging the belief that top income earners in America are the engines of job creation.[123] TED was accused of censoring the talk by not posting it on the website.[124][125] The National Journal reported Chris Anderson had reacted by saying the talk probably ranked as one of the most politically controversial talks they had ever run, and they needed to be careful about when they posted it.[124] Anderson officially responded, indicating that TED only posts one talk every day, selected from many.[126] Forbes staff writer Bruce Upbin described Hanauer's talk as "shoddy and dumb"[127] while New York magazine condemned the conference's move.[128]

Following a TEDx talk by Rupert Sheldrake, TED issued a statement saying their scientific advisors believed that "there is little evidence for some of Sheldrake's more radical claims" made in the talk and recommended that it "should not be distributed without being framed with caution". The video of the talk was moved from the TEDx YouTube channel to the TED blog accompanied by the framing language called for by the advisors. The move and framing prompted accusations of censorship, to which TED responded by saying the accusations were "simply not true", since Sheldrake's talk was still on their website.[129][130] A 2013 talk by Graham Hancock, promoting the use of the drug DMT, was treated in the same way.[131][132]

According to Professor Benjamin Bratton at University of California, San Diego, TED Talks' efforts at fostering progress in socio-economics, science, philosophy, and technology have been ineffective.[133] Chris Anderson responded that some critics have a misconception of TED's goals, and failed to recognise that TED aimed to instill excitement in the audience in the same way the speaker felt it. He stated that TED only wishes to bring news of the significance of certain topics to a large audience.[134]

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