Tim O'Reilly

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This article is about the founder of O'Reilly Media. For the musician, see Tim O'Reilly (musician).
Tim O'Reilly
Tim O'Reilly at the PayPal X Innovate in 2009.
Tim O'Reilly at the PayPal X Innovate in 2009.
Born (1954-06-06) June 6, 1954 (age 60)
Cork, Ireland
Alma mater Harvard College
Occupation Founder and CEO, O'Reilly Media

Tim O'Reilly (born June 6, 1954) is the founder of O'Reilly Media (formerly O'Reilly & Associates). He popularized the terms open source[1] and Web 2.0.

Life and career[edit]

Born in County Cork, Ireland, O'Reilly moved to San Francisco, California with his family six weeks after he was born.[citation needed] He has two brothers and three sisters.[2]

As a teenager, while working at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, O'Reilly became a devoted student of Alfred Korzybski's work.[3] Upon entering college, O'Reilly was interested in literature. He graduated from Harvard College in 1975 with a B.A. cum laude in Classics. He was also a friend of science fiction writer Frank Herbert; he published a critical study of Herbert's work, Frank Herbert in 1981[2] and edited a collection of Herbert's essays and interviews.[4]

After graduating, he married his first wife, Christina, an elementary school teacher, with whom he moved to the Boston area. The couple raised two daughters.[2]

O'Reilly got started as a technical writer in 1977. He started publishing computer manuals in 1983, setting up his business in a converted barn in Newton, Massachusetts, where about a dozen employees worked in a single open room.[2]

In 1989, O'Reilly moved his company to Sebastopol, California, and published the Whole Internet User's Guide and Catalog best-seller in 1992.[2]

O'Reilly's business, then known as O'Reilly & Associates, steadily grew through the '90s, during which period it expanded from print to web publishing. In 1993, the company's catalog became an early web portal, the Global Network Navigator, which in 1995 was sold to America Online for $11 million. The company suffered badly in the dotcom crash of 2000. As book sales decreased, O'Reilly had to lay off about seventy people, about a quarter of the staff.[2]

O'Reilly serves on the board of directors of three companies, Safari Books Online, Maker Media, and PeerJ. He served on the board of Macromedia until its 2005 merger with Adobe Systems, and on the board of MySQL AB until its sale to Sun Microsystems. He also serves on the board of directors for the public-service organization Code for America. In February 2012, he joined the UC Berkeley School of Information Advisory Board.[5]

On 11 April 2015 O'Reilly married Jennifer Pahlka,[6] a former collaborator over Web 2.0 and current Deputy CTO of the USA.[7]


O'Reilly has worked as a propagandist for a number of causes, developing a technique of "meme engineering" in the process.[3][8]

Early causes[edit]

In 1996, O'Reilly fought against a 10-Connection Limit on TCP/IP NT Workstations, writing a letter to the United States Department of Justice, Bill Gates, and CNN, concerned that the Internet is still in its infancy, and that limitations could cripple the technology before it ever has a chance to reach its full potential.[9]

In 2001, O'Reilly was involved in a dispute with Amazon.com,[10] against Amazon's one-click patent and, specifically, Amazon's assertion of that patent against rival Barnes & Noble. The protest ended with O'Reilly and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos visiting Washington D.C. to lobby for patent reform.

Open source software[edit]

In 1998, O'Reilly was central to the effort of rebranding free software under the term open source.[3] O'Reilly sees the role of open source as being inseparable from the development of the Internet, pointing to the widely used TCP/IP protocol, sendmail, Apache, Perl, GNU/Linux and other open source platforms.[1] He is concerned about trends towards new forms of lock-in.[11]

Web 2.0[edit]

In 2004, collaborating with John Battelle and Dale Dougherty, O'Reilly coined and popularized the phrase Web 2.0 for the resurgence of the web after the dotcom crash of 2000, and as a generic term for the "harnessing of collective intelligence" he viewed as the hallmark of this resurgence. O'Reilly first called an "executive conference" in 2004,[12] inviting five hundred technology and business leaders, followed by a public version of the event in 2005. Annual iterations of the event, known as the "Web 2.0 Summit" from 2006 onwards, continued until 2011. By that time, O'Reilly was applying the "2.0" concept to conferences in publishing and government, amongst other things.[13]

O'Reilly envisions the Internet Operating System[14] as consisting of various sub systems, such as media, payment, speech recognition, location, and identity. He uses the analogy of the biome of the human body, having more bacterial than human cells, but depending upon millions of other organisms, each pursuing their own interest, but nevertheless weaving a co-operative web. O'Reilly praises Facebook for their willingness to open up their platform with concepts like the Facebook Platform Open Graph Protocol.[15]

Government as platform[edit]

O'Reilly has been propagating the notion of "government as platform", or "Gov 2.0",[16] touting ideas such as algorithmic regulation, the substitution of regulatory legislation by algorithms.[3][17]

Global brain[edit]

O'Reilly believes that the Internet will develop into a global brain, an intelligent network of people and machines that will function as a nervous system for the planet Earth.[18] This phenomenon will occur because humans will use technologies such as social media or the Internet of things more frequently and efficiently. O'Reilly has recently presented this topic in a number of lectures.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b O'Reilly, Tim. "Open Source Paradigm Shift". tim.oreilly.com. Retrieved 25 August 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Levy, Steven (October 2005). "The Trend Spotter". Wired. Condé Nast. Retrieved 27 April 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d Morozov, Evgeny (2013). "The Meme Hustler: Tim O’Reilly’s crazy talk". The Baffler (22). 
  4. ^ Yoke, Carl (1988). Robert A. Collins, ed. Science fiction & fantasy book review annual. Westport: Meckler. pp. 409–410. ISBN 0887362494. 
  5. ^ "Tim O'Reilly joins I School Advisory Board". ischool.berkeley.edu. Retrieved February 16, 2012. 
  6. ^ O'Reilly, Tim. Twitter https://twitter.com/timoreilly/status/587226466984812544. Retrieved 12 April 2015.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ "Web 2.0 Expo Speaker Bio". O'Reilly Media. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  8. ^ O’Reilly, Tim (2012-10-28). "Language is a Map (pdf with notes)". Slideshare. Retrieved 2015-02-13. 
  9. ^ The 1996 Controversy about the 10-Connection Limit on TCP/IP in NT Workstation at the Wayback Machine (archived November 10, 2001)
  10. ^ O'Reilly, Tim (June 2000). "Internet Land Grab". oreillynet.com. Retrieved 27 April 2014. 
  11. ^ Tim O'Reilly (May 6, 2010). Web 2.0 Expo SF 2010: Tim O'Reilly, "State of the Internet Operating System" (SWF/FLV(Flash)/h.264) (Videotaped Conference). San Francisco: OReillyMedia. Event occurs at 7:00. Retrieved August 24, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Web 2.0 Conference". Web2con. 2004. 
  13. ^ Turner, Fred; Christine Larson (2015-01-01). "Network Celebrity: Entrepreneurship and the New Public Intellectuals". Public Culture 2 (1 75): 53–84. Retrieved 2015-02-04. 
  14. ^ O'Reilly, Tim. "The State of the Internet Operating System". radar.oreilly.com. Retrieved 25 August 2011. 
  15. ^ Tim O'Reilly (May 6, 2010). Web 2.0 Expo SF 2010: Tim O'Reilly, "State of the Internet Operating System" (SWF/FLV(Flash)/h.264) (Videotaped Conference). San Francisco: OReillyMedia. Event occurs at 12:20. Retrieved August 24, 2011. 
  16. ^ Chafkin, Max (2010-05-01). "The Oracle of Silicon Valley". Inc.com. Retrieved 2015-03-05. 
  17. ^ Morozov, Evgeny (2014-07-20). "The rise of data and the death of politics". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-02-13. 
  18. ^ Tim O'Reilly: Towards a Global Brain (talk in 'One Great Idea' video series, March 2012).

External links[edit]