Tim O’Reilly is the founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media, Inc. His original business plan was simply “interesting work for interesting people,” and that’s worked out pretty well. O’Reilly Media delivers online learning, publishes books, runs conferences, urges companies to create more value than they capture, and tries to change the world by spreading and amplifying the knowledge of innovators.
Tim has a history of convening conversations that reshape the computer industry. In 1998, he organized the meeting where the term “open source software” was agreed on, and helped the business world understand its importance. In 2004, with the Web 2.0 Summit, he defined how “Web 2.0” represented not only the resurgence of the web after the dot com bust, but a new model for the computer industry, based on big data, collective intelligence, and the internet as a platform. In 2009, with his “Gov 2.0 Summit,” he framed a conversation about the modernization of government technology that has shaped policy and spawned initiatives at the Federal, State, and local level, and around the world. He has now turned his attention to implications of AI, the on-demand economy, and other technologies that are transforming the nature of work and the future shape of the business world. This is the subject of his new book from Harper Business, WTF: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us.
In addition to his role at O’Reilly Media, Tim is a partner at early stage venture firm O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures (OATV) and on the boards of Maker Media (which was spun out from O’Reilly Media in 2012), Code for America, PeerJ, Civis Analytics, and PopVox.
Some notable instances of O’Reilly Media’s catalytic impact on the technology world include:
- Publishes The Whole Internet User’s Guide & Catalog, the first popular book about the Internet, later selected by the New York Public Library as one of the most significant books of the 20th century.
- O’Reilly’s Global Network Navigator site (GNN, sold to AOL in 1995) is the first web portal and the first true commercial site on the World Wide Web.
- O’Reilly funds “Geek of the Week,” the first programming on Carl Malamud’s pioneering Internet Talk Radio, which kicked off the internet audio revolution ten years before Ben Hammersly coined the term “podcast.”
- The term “open source” is formally adopted at a summit of key free software leaders hosted by O’Reilly Media (then known as O’Reilly & Associates)
- Tim is honored with Infoworld’s Industry Achievement Award for his role in open source advocacy.
- O’Reilly Ventures, O’Reilly’s internal venture firm, invests in Pyra Labs, creator of Blogger, founded by former O’Reilly employee Evan Williams.
- Tim’s “Open Letter to Jeff Bezos” in protest of Amazon’s 1-Click patent is signed by 10,000 supporters in four days, leading to joint lobbying for software patent reform by Amazon and O’Reilly.
- In conjunction with the Pearson Technology Group, O’Reilly introduces Safari Books Online, the first web-native service for online book content.
- O’Reilly holds the first Foo Camp, a private gathering at its Sebastopol, CA campus, where, as Business 2.0 magazine notes, the alpha geeks are “hard and happily at work moving the entire economy of the Web forward, to good end.” Foo Camp is widely emulated, helping give rise to a worldwide “unconference” movement.
- Tim and O’Reilly VP Mark Jacobsen help Evan Williams negotiate the sale of Blogger to Google.
- The Web 2.0 Conference, hosted by O’Reilly, John Battelle, and MediaLive, introduces the Web 2.0 meme to a sold-out crowd. The conference about the second coming of the web after the dot com bust introduces the internet as platform, big data, and collective intelligence of the key drivers of the next wave of computing.
- O’Reilly celebrates its first 25 years in business by updating its name to better represent its work, changing from O’Reilly & Associates to O’Reilly Media, Inc.
- MAKE magazine, a quarterly publication devoted to DIY culture, giving a name and an identity to the nascent Maker movement. Within months of the launch, the name was everywhere, perfectly catching the zeitgeist of hardware innovation and learning by doing.
- Tim supports the Google Library Project, writing a New York Times op-ed, engaging congressmen and the GAO on the high cost of college textbooks and advocating the idea that book search ought to be as open as web search.
- In conjunction with Nature and Google, O’Reilly launches the first Science Foo Camp at Google, bringing its interdisciplinary unconference format to the world of cutting edge scientific research.
- Wired magazine profiles Tim, calling him “The Trend Spotter.”
- Maker Faire debuts at the San Mateo County Fairgrounds and draws a crowd of some 22,000 DIY enthusiasts. By 2016, more than 1.4 million people attend hundreds of Maker Faires worldwide.
- In Seattle, O’Reilly employees Brady Forrest and Bre Pettis produce the first Ignite, a fast-paced, geek-culture community event. Ignite soon becomes a global phenomenon.
- O’Reilly hosts the first Velocity conference, bringing together for the first time the web performance and operations community, and giving voice and a gathering place for what came to be called DevOps and Site Reliability Engineering.
- In conjunction with Mark Jacobsen and Bryce Roberts, Tim launches O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures (OATV), an independent early-stage venture firm.
- First O’Reilly TOC: Tools of Change for Publishing conference spurs reluctant publishers to embrace ebooks, a year before the launch of the Kindle, and puts a stake in the ground for why they should be DRM-free.
- Before the 2008 financial crash, Tim’s asserts that “If the parallels between Web 2.0 and Wall Street are correct, we can divine some of the future Web 2.0 trends by watching what’s already happened on Wall Street,” and begins urging web companies not to follow down the path of trading against your customers, and instead to “create more value than you capture.” Tim urges web developers to “work on stuff that matters.”
- Tim publishes “Government as a Platform,” declaring that “Government 2.0… is the use of technology—especially the collaborative technologies at the heart of Web 2.0—to better solve collective problems at a city, state, national, and international level.”
- The Gov 2.0 Summit brings together leaders from Silicon Valley and top government officials to explore what the two can learn from each other, helping shape the Obama administration’s open data policies and the open government movement around the world.
- Inc. magazine names Tim “The Oracle of Silicon Valley.”
- Code for America launched as a service year program for technology and design professionals, but quickly grows into the heart of the civic technology movement. Tim joins the board, and relies on the non-profit as a platform for continued advocacy on government innovation.
- O’Reilly Strata conference launched as the gather place for the new discipline of data science.
- Maker Media spun out of O’Reilly Media as a separate company.
- O’Reilly Media buys out the Pearson Technology Group share of the Safari Books Online joint venture, making it a wholly-owned O’Reilly subsidiary.
- In conjunction with Ron Bouganim, Tim helps launch the GovTech Fund, the first-ever venture capital fund dedicated to government technology startups.
- Tim launches the WTF Economy publication on Medium and the Next:Economy Summit to explore the impact of technology on the future of business, work, and the economy.
- O’Reilly launches the O’Reilly AI conference. Tim opens for President Barack Obama at the White House Frontiers Conference, talking about the impact of AI on the economy, explaining why we must use it not to replace people, but to empower them to tackle jobs that were previously impossible.
- O’Reilly fully integrates O’Reilly Media and Safari into a single learning platform, including not just text but also video, live code, learning paths, and live training.
- Tim’s book, WTF: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us
O’Reilly’s future is still being written. Check back for updates.
An archive of Tim’s online articles, talks, and interviews can be found at Tim’s archive page.