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TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a nonprofit organization that holds conferences across the globe in which notable figures from academic, commercial and public sectors are invited to address a wide range of topics relating to technology, entertainment and design before a live audience. The talks are usually made available for public via live stream or podcast on the official website.
In 1984, American architect Richard Saul Wurman and several of his partners held the first TED conference, which included one of the initial presentations of the Macintosh computer and a talk by mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot. In 1990, TED became an annual event held in Monterey, California. On November 8th, 1994, the official TED website was launched. In November of 2001, entrepreneur Chris Anderson became the new owner of TED.
In June of 2006, a selection of the highest performing TED lectures were distributed on the TED website, YouTube and iTunes under Creative Commons licenses. By January of 2007, 44 talks were published online with a combined total of three million views. In April, TED unveiled a new website developed by the design firm Method with a focus on showcasing the lecture videos. From 2007 to 2012, the site won numerous prizes, including seven Webby Awards, iTunes Best Podcast of the Year, OMMA’s “video sharing” award, the “technical achievement” Web Visionary Award and a Peabody award. In March of 2012, Netflix announced they would be streaming a series of 16-hour TEDTalk shows. By June of that year, the site had published over 1,300 lectures.
Sarah Silverman Talk
On February 13th, 2010, American comedian Sarah Silverman gave a presentation at the annual TED conference, in which she used the word “retarded” several times in her talk to combat former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin’s rant about the word (shown below).
Following the presentation, TED organizer Chris Anderson posted a tweet criticizing the comedian’s talk (shown below, left) before deleting the post shortly after. Silverman subsequently responded by sarcastically thanking Anderson for his rebuke (shown below, right).
Nick Hanauer Talk
In May 2012, TED chose to not promote a talk by American venture capitalist Nick Hanauer about income inequality (shown below) which was deemed “too politically controversial.”
Graham Hancock Talk
On January 12th, 2013, British writer Graham Hancock gave a talk at TEDx in London titled “The War on Consciousness,” in which he described the transformative experience he had with the drug ayahuasca and argued that adults should be able to legally consume the substance. Following several complaints to the organization about the talk being unscientific, a video upload of the talk was removed from the official TED website. The organization was subsequently accused of censorship and reuploaded the video to a special section of the website.
Since its foundation, the organization has occasionally come under criticism for being elitist. On February 29th, 2008, American technology journalist Sarah Lacy criticized its high admission price of $6,000 and accused the organizers of being smug towards the attendees in an Newsweek op-ed titled “Why I’m Fed Up with TED.” In February 2013, former TED fellow and American restaurateur Eddie Haung accused the organization of being a “cult” and compared it to the Church of Scientology during his appearance on the Joe Rogan Podcast, shortly after he was asked to leave the fellowship program for “not respecting its basic rule of full participation in the conference.”
On March 16th, 2012, a promotional video was released for the 2012 science fiction film Prometheus, in which the character Peter Weylan gives a TED Talk set in the year 2023 about his fictional company’s technological capabilities (shown below, left). On October 17th, 2012, the satirical news site The Onion launched a series of TED Talk parodies titled “Onion Talks” (shown below, right), in which actors present mock TED presentations.
On October 6th, 2013, the MillionDollarExtreme YouTube channel uploaded comedian Sam Hyde’s prank TEDx talk at Drexel University, in which he gives an 20-minute incoherent lecture titled “2070 Paradigm Shift” (shown below, left). On October 9th, CollegeHumor published a video titled “High TED Talks,” in which several actors give TED presentations as if they were under the influence of cannabis.
On November 13th, 2012, the TED blog reported that they had reached their billionth video view. As of October 2013, the TedTalksDirector YouTube channel has accumulated upwards 219 million views and 1.6 million subscribers and the website TED.com has an Alexa traffic rank of 1,202.