Our Mission: Spread ideas

TED is a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world. We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world. On TED.com, we're building a clearinghouse of free knowledge from the world's most inspired thinkers — and a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other, both online and at TED and TEDx events around the world, all year long.

3,000 cities, 2,000 talks, more than 3.9 billion views.

How did a one-off conference become a viral video phenomenon and a worldwide community of passionate people?

Richard Saul Wurman

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.

February 1984: Mickey Schulhof of the Sony Corporation describes and then demonstrates the use of “compact disc digital audio.”

But despite a stellar lineup, the event lost money, and it was six years before Wurman and partner Harry Marks tried again. This time, in 1990, 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 and the fees to attend where in the thousands.

  • Regular: USD$7,500
  • Donor: USD$15,000
  • Patron: USD$125,000
“The amazing thing about a talk is that you can literally rewire people’s minds in a few minutes”

A vision to turn a for-profit conference into a global nonprofit movement

In 2001, Chris Anderson’s nonprofit Sapling Foundation acquired TED, and Anderson became its Curator. With the mission to spread knowledge, Anderson started TED's transformation to a public platform with two major milestones.

As an experiment back in 2006, Anderson and his team tried putting 6 talks online for free distribution. 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.

TED was no longer just a conference, but an engine for sharing knowledge free globally.

In the spirit of TED's mission, "ideas worth spreading", TEDx was created. It supports independent organizers who want to create a TED-like event in their own community. The difference between TED and TEDx events are that the former takes more of a global approach while the latter typically focuses on a local community that concentrates on local voices.

"It's been the force that has taken TED across the planet and seeded all of these communities. I've never seen anything like it and I'm absolutely in awe of that.”

A TEDx event crosses the US-Mexico border, to show that ideas can’t be fenced in

(2015) TEDxMonumento258 became the first TEDx event organized by teams in two different countries and held simultaneously across a border.

In Friendship Park, where Monument 258 stands, a stretch of fence allows for interaction without crossing. The fence here is a thick, waffle-like, metal mesh — you can see and hear through it. The TEDxMonumento258 team decided to build two stages, back-to-back, one on each side. The speaker program would alternate — a speaker on the US side, then a speaker on the Mexico side.

The theme for the event came easily: Ideas without borders. “You can pass laws, you can build fences,” said San Diego-based organizer Mark Lovett, “but you will never stop cultures from sharing their lives and ideas.”

On any given day, there are some eight TED events being held around the world.

  • TEDGlobal: A sister conference held in locations around the world
  • The TED Prize: Grants $1 million in a powerful idea every year to change the world
  • TED-Ed: Short video lessons aimed at educators
  • TED Radio Hours: Partnership that brings ideas and stories from TED Talks to public radio listeners
  • TED Talks: An audio and video podcast series in which the best TED content is released free online
Our agenda is to make great ideas accessible and spark conversation. Everything we do is driven by this goal: How can we best spread great ideas?
"I think a lot of what people get from TED is the rediscovery of wonder."

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