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Tim O'Reilly

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Tim O'Reilly
Tim O'Reilly in 2017
O'Reilly in 2017
Timothy O'Reilly

(1954-06-06) 6 June 1954 (age 70)
Cork, Ireland
Alma materHarvard University (AB)
EmployerO'Reilly Media
Board member ofSafari Books Online
Maker Media
Code for America
Christina O'Reilly
(m. 1974)
(m. 2015)

Timothy O'Reilly (born 6 June 1954) is an Irish-American author and publisher, who is the founder of O'Reilly Media (formerly O'Reilly & Associates). He popularised the terms open source[2] and Web 2.0.

Education and early life[edit]

Born in County Cork, Ireland, Tim O'Reilly moved to San Francisco, California, with his family when he was a baby.[3] He has three brothers and three sisters.[4] As a teenager, encouraged by his older brother Sean, O'Reilly became a follower of George Simon, a writer and adherent of the general semantics program.[3][4] Through Simon, O'Reilly became acquainted with the work of Alfred Korzybski,[5] which he has cited as a formative experience.[6][7]

In 1973, O'Reilly enrolled at Harvard College to study classics and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1975. During O'Reilly's first year at Harvard, George Simon died in an accident.[4][5]


After graduating, O'Reilly completed an edition of Simon's Notebooks, 1965–1973.[8] He also wrote a well-received book on the science fiction writer Frank Herbert[9] and edited a collection of Herbert's essays and interviews.[10] 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.[4] In 1989, O'Reilly moved his company to Sebastopol, California, and published the Whole Internet User's Guide and Catalog, which was a best-seller in 1992.[4] O'Reilly's business, then known as O'Reilly & Associates, steadily grew through the 1990s, during which period it expanded from paper printed materials to web publishing. In 1993, the company's catalogue became an early web portal, the Global Network Navigator, which in 1995 was sold to America Online.

The company suffered 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,[4] but thereafter rebuilt the company around ebook publishing and event production. In 2011 O'Reilly handed over the reins of O'Reilly Media to the company's CFO, Laura Baldwin, but retained the title of CEO in recognition for the indispensable role he had in building the O'Reilly Media company and brand.

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 Code for America. In February 2012, he joined the UC Berkeley School of Information Advisory Board.[11] As a venture capitalist, O'Reilly has invested in companies such as Fastly, Blogger, Delicious,[4] Foursquare, Bitly, and Chumby.[12]

In 2017, O'Reilly's book WTF? What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us was published,[13] in which he discusses the consequences of technology and its potential to enhance the human experience.[14][15]


O'Reilly has worked as an activist for a number of causes[16] and prides himself on his company's "long history of advocacy, meme-making, and evangelism."[17] As a strategy of persuasion, he has evolved a technique of "meme engineering," which seeks to modify the terminology that people use.[5][18]

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 was still in its infancy, and that limitations could cripple the technology before it ever had a chance to reach its full potential.[19] In 2001, O'Reilly was involved in a dispute with Amazon.com,[20] 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 helped rebrand free software under the term open source.[5][18][21] 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, Linux and other open source platforms.[2] He is concerned about trends towards new forms of lock-in.[22]

Web 2.0[edit]

In 2003, after the dot com bust, O'Reilly Media's corporate goal was to reignite enthusiasm in the computer industry. Dale Dougherty, an executive at O'Reilly, invoked the phrase "Web 2.0" during a brainstorming session.[23] Though O'Reilly is often credited with popularizing the phrase Web 2.0, it originated with Darcy DiNucci, who coined the term in 1999.[24] O'Reilly went on to popularize the phrase as a handle for the resurgence of the web after the dotcom crash of 2000, and as a generic term for the "harnessing of collective intelligence" viewed as the hallmark of this resurgence. O'Reilly first called an "executive conference" in 2004,[25] 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.

O'Reilly and employees of O'Reilly Media have applied the "2.0" concept to conferences in publishing and government, amongst other things.[26] O'Reilly envisions the Internet Operating System[27] 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 (a ratio lately estimated at 1.3:1),[28] but depending upon millions of other organisms each pursuing their own interest but nevertheless weaving a co-operative web.[29]

Government as platform[edit]

O'Reilly has been propagating the notion of "government as platform", or "Gov 2.0".[3] He is considered the most enthusiastic promoter of algorithmic regulation,[30] the ongoing monitoring and modification of government policies via open data feedback.[31]

Inner source[edit]

In 2001, O'Reilly coined the term inner source for the use of open source software development practices and the establishment of an open source-like culture within organisations whereby the organisation may still develop proprietary software but internally opens up its development.[32]

Algorithmic attention rents[edit]

Originally proposed by Tim O’Reilly, and developed further in collaboration with Ilan Strauss and Mariana Mazzucato, “algorithmic attention rents” entails the use of a platform’s algorithms to allocate user attention to content which is more profitable or beneficial to the platform, at the expense of its ecosystem of users and third-party firms, content creators, website developers, etc.[33][34] Algorithms are used to degrade the quality of information shown to the user, as paid for and addictive content is promoted ahead of “organic” content which best meets users needs.

A detailed case study has been undertaken with respect to Amazon and its ability to degrade search results quality through the inclusion of (duplicated) paid advertising results in its product search results for its third-party marketplace.[35] The theoretical (legal-economic) underpinnings of this is discussed in a companion paper.[36]

Personal life[edit]

After graduating from Harvard, O'Reilly married his first wife, Christina, with whom he moved to the Boston area.[3] The couple raised two daughters, Arwen and Meara. Arwen is married to Saul Griffith.[4]

On 11 April 2015 O'Reilly married Jennifer Pahlka,[37][non-primary source needed][38] a former Deputy CTO of the US, and Founder and former Executive Director of Code for America.[39] [1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Tim O'Reilly on Twitter: "Last night at the reception for my wedding to the incomparable @pahlkadot!". Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  2. ^ a b O'Reilly, Tim (June 2004). "Open Source Paradigm Shift". O'Reilly Media. Retrieved 25 August 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d Chafkin, Max (1 May 2010). "The Oracle of Silicon Valley". Inc.com. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Levy, Steven (October 2005). "The Trend Spotter". Wired. Retrieved 27 April 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d Morozov, Evgeny (2013). "The Meme Hustler: Tim O'Reilly's crazy talk". The Baffler. No. 22.
  6. ^ O'Reilly, Tim (7 July 2005). "Books That Have Shaped How I Think". O'Reilly Media. Retrieved 25 April 2015.
  7. ^ O'Reilly, Tim (29 October 2012). "Language is a Map". LinkedIn Pulse. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  8. ^ Simon, George (1976). Notebooks, 1965–1973, ed. with commentary by Timothy O'Reilly. Watertown, Mass.: Summer Publishers.
  9. ^ O'Reilly, Timothy (1981). Frank Herbert. New York: Frederick Ungar. Retrieved 25 April 2015.
  10. ^ Yoke, Carl (1988). Robert A. Collins (ed.). Science fiction & fantasy book review annual. Westport: Meckler. pp. 409–410. ISBN 0887362494.
  11. ^ "Tim O'Reilly joins I School Advisory Board". ischool.berkeley.edu. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  12. ^ Levy, Steven (21 December 2012). "Tim O'Reilly's Key to Creating the Next Big Thing". Wired. Retrieved 25 April 2015.
  13. ^ WTF? What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us. WorldCat. 2017. OCLC 958356612.
  14. ^ Levy, Stephen (4 October 2017). "Algorithms Have Already Gone Rogue". Wired. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  15. ^ "WTF? What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us". HarperCollins. 10 October 2017. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  16. ^ Guynn, Jessica (10 October 2008). "Tech guru challenges next generation to get serious". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 25 April 2015.
  17. ^ O'Reilly, Tim (12 March 2006). "About O'Reilly". O'Reilly Media. Archived from the original on 12 March 2006.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  18. ^ a b O'Reilly, Tim (2001). "Remaking the Peer-to-Peer Meme". In Andrew Oram (ed.). Peer-to-peer: Harnessing the Benefits of a Disruptive Technology. O'Reilly Media. pp. 38–58. ISBN 9780596001100.
  19. ^ "The 1996 Controversy about the 10-Connection Limit on TCP/IP in NT Workstation". Archived from the original on 10 November 2001. Retrieved 25 August 2011.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  20. ^ O'Reilly, Tim (June 2000). "Internet Land Grab". oreillynet.com. Retrieved 27 April 2014.
  21. ^ van Rossum, Guido (10 April 1998). "Open Source Summit". Linux Gazette. Archived from the original on 29 May 2004. Retrieved 7 February 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  22. ^ Tim O'Reilly (6 May 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 24 August 2011.
  23. ^ "How Web 2.0 Works". HowStuffWorks. 28 December 2007. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  24. ^ DiNucci, Darcy. "Fragmented Future" (PDF). Print. 53 (4): 221–222.
  25. ^ "Web 2.0 Conference". Web2con. 2004. Archived from the original on 13 September 2008.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  26. ^ Turner, Fred; Christine Larson (1 January 2015). "Network Celebrity: Entrepreneurship and the New Public Intellectuals". Public Culture. 2 (1 75): 53–84. doi:10.1215/08992363-2798343.
  27. ^ O'Reilly, Tim. "The State of the Internet Operating System". radar.oreilly.com. Retrieved 25 August 2011.
  28. ^ Alison Abbott (8 January 2016). "Scientists bust myth that our bodies have more bacteria than human cells". Nature. Macmillan. doi:10.1038/nature.2016.19136. ISSN 0028-0836. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  29. ^ Tim O'Reilly, John Battelle (6 May 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 24 August 2011.
  30. ^ Morozov, Evgeny (20 July 2014). "The rise of data and the death of politics". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  31. ^ O'Reilly, Tim (October 2013). Brett Goldstein; Lauren Dyson (eds.). Beyond Transparency: Open Data and the Future of Civic Innovation. San Francisco: Code for America.
  32. ^ "Open Source and OpenGL – O'Reilly Media". archive.oreilly.com.
  33. ^ Francisco, Danny Fortson, San. "Tim O'Reilly: how Big Tech became landlords of the internet". ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 4 March 2024.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  34. ^ O’Reilly, Tim; Strauss, Ilan; Mazzucato, Mariana. "Algorithmic attention rents: A theory of digital platform market power". Data & Policy. 6: e6. ISSN 2632-3249.
  35. ^ UCL (16 November 2023). "Behind the Clicks: Can Amazon allocate user attention as it pleases?". UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose. Retrieved 4 March 2024.
  36. ^ UCL (16 November 2023). "Amazon's Algorithmic Rents: The economics of information on Amazon". UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose. Retrieved 4 March 2024.
  37. ^ O'Reilly, Tim (12 April 2015). "Last night at the reception". Twitter. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  38. ^ "Web 2.0 Expo Speaker Bio". O'Reilly Media. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  39. ^ Scola, Nancy (25 August 2014). "How the U.S. Digital Service could upset D.C.'s IT vendor ecosystem". The Washington Post. Retrieved 20 April 2015.

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