BIL started as an unaffiliated unconference satellite to TED’s structured ‘invite only’ paid conference. BIL is an open, self-organizing, emergent arts, science, society, and technology conference. Anyone can come, and anyone is able to sign-up to speak, limited only by space and time. The unconference structure allows for egalitarian treatment of anyone in any role; everyone is encouraged to participate where they can, whether that's clean up, set up, getting coffee, listening, AV work, blogging the conference, registration, etc.
BIL’s mission statement: “BIL is an open, self-organizing, emergent, arts, science, society, and technology unconference.”
There is no permanent staff or location, no one that organizes or speaks is paid, and even the acronym changes to reflect the will of the participants.
The week of BIL 2008, the number of RSVPs had eclipsed the space limitations and the group was forced to announce that they were full. Subsequent BILs have been hosted in Long Beach, Vancouver, and San Francisco, timed with TED whenever they can. BIL went on to have conferences worldwide - Afghanistan, India, England, France, Canada and Tunisia, to name a few. There are also subject-focused variants such as BIL:PIL mirroring TEDMED, and JIL for women.
After the first BIL, the TED organization contacted BIL leaders for advice on what later became their TEDx brand for individuals hosting their own versions of TED. They launched 3 months after the 2nd BIL. The core difference between TEDx and BIL is the amount of overhead and restrictions. TEDx requires that each applicant be thoroughly screened and already have conference experience; thus, TEDx is willing to exclude people.
- Gagnier, Christina (17 April 2010). "A BIL and TED Excellent Adventure". HuffPost.
- Becker, Ramie (3 March 2012). "Here's a concept: populism; Where the TED conference is elitist, the BIL is inclusive -- and very quirky". Los Angeles Times. p. D.4. ProQuest 925832126.
- "On the Road, There Will Be Robots". NPR. 4 March 2008.
- Orden, Erica (1 March 2011). "For BIL, Tagging Along With TED Proves to Be an Excellent Adventure". Wall Street Journal.
- Bennet, Sarah (1 March 2013). "In The Spirit of TED, BIL Conference Takes Downtown Long Beach". Long Beach Post. Archived from the original on 5 March 2013.
- Hui, Stephen (11 March 2014). "BIL and TED bring wildly different conferences to Vancouver". The Georgia Straight.
- Papi-Thornton, Daniela (16 August 2012). "Social Entrepreneurship Conferences 101: The Where and What". HuffPost.
- Karlin, Susan (6 March 2015). "TED's Upstart Sibling, BIL, Gets Underway In L.A." Fast Company.
- O'Brien, Chris (26 February 2013). "TED confab is speaking to the masses -- and drawing scorn". Los Angeles Times.