Andrew Orlowski

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Andrew Orlowski
Orlowski in 2014
Born1966 (age 55–56)
OccupationFormer executive editor for IT news and opinion website The Register

Andrew Orlowski (born 1966) is a British columnist, investigative journalist and former executive editor of the IT news and opinion website The Register.[1][2] In 2021, Orlowski became a business columnist for The Daily Telegraph.

Journalism career[edit]

In his youth, Orlowski had been involved in a school magazine called Within These Walls, and a fanzine named Paradise Demise.[3] Moving from Northallerton, Yorkshire, to Manchester in 1984, he studied at University of Manchester and worked as a receptionist in the IT department at GM Buses, before taking a course in computer programming.[3] He worked as a programmer in Altrincham in the early 1990s, and later said that he "found that a lot less creative than I'd expected, and this being my first proper job I soon got disillusioned."[3]

Orlowski wrote reviews for Manchester's City Life magazine from 1988, and in 1992 started an alternative newspaper called Badpress in Manchester.[3] In 1994, he became computer correspondent for Private Eye magazine.[3][4] In the late 1990s, he wrote for PC Pro[5] and was news editor at IT Week.[6] Orlowski worked as a columnist and executive editor of IT news and opinion website The Register for 19 years, leaving in May 2019;[7] he was based in San Francisco for five years in the early 2000s but returned to England in 2006.[1]

Orlowski began writing for The Daily Telegraph in September 2019, becoming a regular columnist on business matters in March 2021.[8][9]


In 2003, Orlowski coined the term googlewashing to describe the potential for accidental or intentional censorship of concepts through the way search engines like Google Search operate.[10] An article in The New York Times[11] commenting on worldwide anti-war demonstrations had stated that "there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion", and suddenly the term "the Second Superpower" acquired widespread currency.[10] However, within a few weeks, most of the top search engine results for the term had come to be about something else, because a prominent blogger had used the same term in what Orlowski described as a "plea for net users to organize themselves as a 'superpower'."[10][12] The blogger's piece was so well linked and so widely commented upon online that the first few pages of Google hits in a search for "the second superpower" all were about his new meaning, with the original anti-war meaning relegated to "other links not shown because they are deemed to be irrelevant."[10] Even the term googlewashing itself almost came to be "googlewashed" in a similar manner, with Orlowski's original definition temporarily disappearing from the top Google search results for the term.[10][13][14]

Writings on techno-utopianism[edit]

Orlowski is a frequent writer on techno-utopianism.[15] Concerning the political influence of Google, Orlowski has said: "The web is a secular religion at the moment and politicians go to pray at events like the Google Zeitgeist conference. Any politician who wants to brand himself as a forward-looking person will get himself photographed with the Google boys. [...] It's the big regulatory issue of the next 10 years: how politicians deal with Google. If the web is as important as the politicians say, it seems odd that one company sets the price and defines the terms of business."[16]

Commenting on the vision of the technological singularity, a future time when people and machines would combine to form a new superintelligence, and at least a part of humanity might overcome biological limitations like death and disease, he has stated that "The Singularity is not the great vision for society that Lenin had or Milton Friedman might have. It is rich people building a lifeboat and getting off the ship."[15]

In December 2004, Orlowski was invited to a discussion panel on techno-utopianism at Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.[17] He was Assistant Producer of Adam Curtis' 2011 BBC TV series on techno-utopianism, All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace.[18]

Criticism of English Wikipedia[edit]

In the 2000s, Orlowski often took a critical view of English Wikipedia. In 2004, he approvingly quoted a Register reader who had called Wikipedia enthusiasts "the Khmer Rouge in diapers".[19][20] Writing about Wikipedia in 2005, he observed: "Readability, which wasn't great to begin with, has plummeted. Formerly coherent and reasonably accurate articles in the technical section have gotten worse as they've gotten longer."[21][22] In a 2005 BBC article, Bill Thompson said Orlowski was "scathing in his dismissal of the site as a cult-like organisation where faith triumphs rationality, and even suggests we look at English Wikipedia as 'a massively scalable, online role-playing game' where 'players can assume fictional online identities and many "editors" do just that'."[23]

Writing for The Daily Telegraph in May 2021, Orlowski said that the Wikimedia Foundation was "flush with cash" and passing money to the Tides Network, which he described as "a left-leaning dark money group"; he referred to Wikipedia as "Wokepedia" in an allusion to the term "woke".[24] In another article for The Daily Telegraph, in December 2021, Orlowski said the Wikimedia Foundation's urgent fundraising banners on Wikipedia were "preposterous" given that it held assets of $240 million, had a $100 million endowment, and the Wikimedia Deputy Director had said in 2013 that the Foundation could be sustainable on "$10M+ a year".[25]


  1. ^ a b "Contact the Register". The Register. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
  2. ^ Bob Dickinson (1997). Imprinting the sticks: the alternative press beyond London. Arena. p. 229. ISBN 978-1-85742-234-4.
  3. ^ a b c d e Bob Dickson, A Retch in the Rain, Badpress
  4. ^ Internet Porn: "Government report suppressed", PR Newswire, 6 September 1996
  5. ^ "Sci/Tech | The key debate on encryption". BBC News. 30 January 1998. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
  6. ^ "IT Week: Tim O'Reilly talks Open Source". Linux Today. 31 March 1999. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
  7. ^ Orlowski, Andrew (9 May 2019). "Veteran vulture Andrew Orlowski is offski after 19 years at The Register". The Register. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
  8. ^ "Andrew Orlowski". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
  9. ^ "Should we own our personal data?". Institute of Economic Affairs. 18 July 2021. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
  10. ^ a b c d e Adams, Andrew A.; McCrindle, Rachel (2008). Pandora's Box: Social and Professional Issues of the Information Age. Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 122–123. ISBN 978-0-470-06553-2.
  11. ^ Tyler, Patrick E. (17 February 2003). "A New Power in the Streets". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
  12. ^ Andrew Orlowski, Anti-war slogan coined, repurposed and Googlewashed... in 42 days, The Register, 3 April 2003
  13. ^ "Google washes whiter".
  14. ^ Kevin Heisler. ""Googlewash" Is Googlewashed by Online Reputation Defenders". Search Engine Watch.
  15. ^ a b Vance, Ashlee (12 June 2010). "In the Singularity Movement, Humans Are So Yesterday". The New York Times.
  16. ^ Smith, David (17 August 2008). "Google, 10 years in: big, friendly giant or a greedy Goliath?". The Observer. London. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
  17. ^ Mistakes Techno Utopians Make: Fantasy Politics and the Disappearing Social December 2004
  18. ^ "Are the creative industries losing the PR battle on legislative reform? | M magazine: PRS for Music online magazine M magazine: PRS for Music online magazine – PRS for Music Online Magazine". M magazine. 5 February 2013. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
  19. ^ Orlowski, Andrew (7 September 2004). "Wikipedia 'to make universities obsolete'". The Register. Retrieved 23 December 2021.
  20. ^ "Trust me, this is the last word. No, this is". Times Higher Education (THE). 13 May 2005. Retrieved 22 December 2021.
  21. ^ Salas, Randy (7 November 2005). "web search; What's wrong with Wikipedia?". Star Tribune. Archived from the original on 11 October 2013. Retrieved 2 October 2012. – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  22. ^ "Wikipedia: magic, monkeys and typewriters".
  23. ^ Thompson, Bill (16 December 2005). "What is it with Wikipedia?". Retrieved 23 December 2011.
  24. ^ Orlowski, Andrew (27 May 2021). "You think the BBC is biased? Check out Wokepedia". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 27 May 2021. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  25. ^ Orlowski, Andrew (20 December 2021). "Wokepedia's greed makes a mockery of the season of giving". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 23 December 2021. Retrieved 23 December 2021.

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