The list of visionaries who truly understand the value of content in the web environment is pretty short. The list of those who apply that knowledge in their core business is even shorter. Near the top of that list is Tim O'Reilly, founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media.
O'Reilly is best known for their books. Look on the bookshelf of any developer or IT professional, and you're sure to see a bunch of O'Reilly books -they're the ones with the sketches of animals on the cover. In fact, many users know them by their animals - ask any Perl programmer for their copy of the "Camel Book" and they'll know you're referring to O'Reilly's Programming Perl.
So, what makes this book publisher a visionary?
To start, O'Reilly published its first book on the web, the "Whole Internet User's Guide and Catalog" in 1992. At the time, there were fewer than 200 websites out there. O'Reilly launched the Global Network Navigator ("GNN"), later sold to AOL, in 1993 - the first portal and first advertising supported website.
More recently, O'Reilly has been credited with naming "Web 2.0" and hosts an annual Web 2.0 conference. But where O'Reilly really shows its merit is in its online versions of its products. O'Reilly, in conjunction with Pearson and with technology from Bureau van Dijk, launched Safari Books Online in 2001. Safari Books is a subscription service where users can rent a bookshelf where they can access a set number of books online from among the more than 3,000 in the library. Just recently, O'Reilly has launched a new "bookshelf-free" version called Safari Library, where users can access an unlimited number of books for $39.99 per month.
O'Reilly has added SafariU, where they allow educators to compile custom textbooks from individual chapters of books in the O'Reilly library.
Another new feature from O'Reilly is Rough Cuts. Rough Cuts are preliminary versions of books, made available electronically as they are still being written, generally 2-6 months before publication. Users can purchase online-only versions (with PDF updates of each revision) or can pre-purchase the print copy, accessing it electronically until the printed version is shipped. With a nod to Web 2.0, O'Reilly encourages users to submit comments and feedback about the content in their Rough Cuts books, by placing a "notes" widget on the top of each page. For developers working with bleeding edge technologies, Rough Cuts provides early access and an interactive experience.
O'Reilly Media continues to push the envelope in making content available to users in multiple formats and platforms. Tim O'Reilly's O'Reilly Radar blog is must reading for anyone in the content or technology space. As one of the few visionaries to "walk the walk", O'Reilly are clearly one of the fifty content companies that matter.