What do we know about TED and its policies?

Over the past 30 years Ted has grown into an international platform for “Ideas Worth Sharing”. But what is its history and its guiding principles. Below, Tedtalkspsychology.com presents, in TED’s own words, answers to these questions.

What is the history of Ted Talks?

How did a one-off conference about technology, entertainment and design become a viral video phenomenon and a worldwide community of passionate people?

TED was born in 1984 out of Richard Saul Wurman’s observation of a powerful convergence among three fields: technology, entertainment and design. The first TED included a demo of the compact disc, the e-book and cutting-edge 3D graphics from Lucasfilm, while mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot demonstrated how to map coastlines using his developing theory of fractal geometry.

But despite a stellar lineup, the event lost money, and it was six years before Wurman and partner Harry Marks tried again. This time, the world was ready and the numbers worked. The TED Conference became an annual event in Monterey, California, attracting a growing and influential audience from many different disciplines united by their curiosity and open-mindedness – and also by their shared discovery of an exciting secret. (Back then, TED was an invitation-only event.)

Twelve years after the first Conference, the first 6 talks were posted online…

The first six TED Talks were posted online in June 2006. By September, they had reached more than one million views. TED Talks proved so popular that in 2007, TED’s website was relaunched around them, giving a global audience free access to some of the world’s greatest thinkers, leaders and teachers.

Each one is powerful and moving — and still resonates today.
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How did TED become a not-for profit and what did that mean in terms of the trajectory of the Conference?

Here is a video of a talk by Chris Anderson, as he deals with this question.

In 2002, Chris Anderson shares his vision for the future of TED.
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Meanwhile the roster of presenters broadened to include scientists, philosophers, musicians, business and religious leaders, philanthropists and many others. For many attendees, TED became one of the intellectual and emotional highlights of the year. That was certainly true for media entrepreneur Chris Anderson, who met with Wurman in 2000 to discuss the conference’s future. A deal was struck, and in 2001, Anderson’s nonprofit Sapling Foundation acquired TED, and Anderson became its Curator.

In taking the conference nonprofit, Anderson stood by the principles that made TED great: the inspired format, the breadth of content, the commitment to seek out the most interesting people on Earth and let them communicate their passion. It soon became clear that the ideas and inspiration generated at TED should have an impact well outside the city limits of Monterey.

Accordingly, the years 2001–2006 saw three major additions to the TED family:

  • a sister conference, TEDGlobal, held in locations around the world
  • the TED Prize, which grants its winners one wish to change the world
  • an audio and video podcast series, TED Talks, in which the best TED content is released free online.


In 2008, in part thanks to new awareness created by TED Talks, we launched TEDActive a simulcast version of the springtime TED Conference, allowing more people to attend at a lower price. By 2009, the number of TED Talk views had grown to 100 million views, making Internet heroes out of speakers like Jill Bolte Taylor and Sir Ken Robinson.

radical opening up of the TED format to local, independently organized events. Around the same time, we embarked on the Open Translation Project, creating the infrastructure for TED Talks to be translated into 100+ languages.

In March 2012, TED-Ed was launched, creating short video lessons aimed at educators, and April 2012 saw the debut of TED Radio Hour, a partnership that brings ideas and stories from TED Talks to public radio listeners. All of these projects aim to create ever-greater access to ideas, for free.

In the fall of 2012, TED Talks celebrated its one billionth video view. As TED Talks continue to be watched around the world, with an average of 17 new page views a second, the TED, TEDActive and TEDGlobal conferences continue to inspire, motivate and thrill attendees. In 2014, TED celebrated its 30th anniversary in Vancouver, Canada, with TEDActive happening simultaneously in nearby Whistler. The theme of this milestone conference: “The Next Chapter,” both a reflection on the most significant developments of the past 30 years as well as a look at what’s ahead.

And of course, the TED story continues…

What do we know about TED’s policies? (from the official web site).

As TED has grown, we’ve picked up a few misconceptions along the way — some more vexing than others. If you’ve heard a rumor and want to know the facts, or have your own questions about who the heck we are and how we operate, we have a few answers below.

Is TED elitist?

In one sense, yes — we curate our speaker list and our TED Talks lineup very carefully. And we “curate” our audience at conferences to make sure we have a balanced, diverse group that can support our mission of bringing great ideas to the world for free.

But we also work hard not to be elitist in ways that matter. We actively seek out ideas from all over the world in multiple languages. We work to diversify both our lineup and our attendee roster, devoting time and budget to seeking out and supporting attendees who couldn’t afford to come on their own, but who’ll be great contributors. We also devote significant time and money to bringing TED Talks to people who lack access to broadband or have other accessibility issues. We hope the proof of the pudding is that our talks are available for free to anyone in the world.

Is TED biased?

Not every talk given at a TED conference or a TEDx event makes it to the front page of TED.com. Some speakers have suggested that their live talks didn’t become TED Talks because of a bias against their political stance. In truth, TED is nonpartisan and we do our best to post talks that will contribute to a productive conversation. TED is not a place for partisan slams and one-sided arguments.

Is TED full of pseudoscience?

As the global TEDx movement grows, some local events have been targeted by speakers who make unsupported claims about science and health — from perpetual motion to psychic healing. TEDx’s science guidelines clearly state that science and health information shared from the stage must be supported by peer-reviewed research. If you have concerns about the content of a TEDx talk, please write to tedx@ted.com and let us know.

Does TED ban discussion of GMOs and food?

In 2013, another website created this meme in order to draw page views (and sell vitamin supplements). The story went viral because it seemed simply too awful to believe. And indeed it was not true. TED does not ban discussion of GMOs and food. Our formal response includes a long list of TED Talks about food, GMOs, food science and the sustainability and health of our food supply.

Does TED ban [insert topic]?

TED has no formal bans on any topic. If you notice we have not covered a topic of interest to you, please suggest a speaker who can do it justice, and feel free to let us know we’ve been missing out! We are always looking for new ideas, topics and speakers.

Is TED rich?

TED is owned by a nonprofit. Our North American conference itself makes money, as do partnerships with companies and foundations — but we spend it as soon as we get it, supporting big projects like making TED Talks available for free, and supporting the independent TEDx community around the world. We pay fair salaries to our workers and we pay our interns. No one at TED HQ is getting rich; every dime we make goes right back into supporting our work.

© TED Conferences, LLC

Tedtalkspsychology.com is a fervent supporter of TED’s mission to spread “Ideas Worth Sharing”!!!