The list was started with a debate at a symposium in Washington, D.C., on February 1, 1998, with panel participants CBS news anchor Dan Rather, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, then New York governor Mario Cuomo, then–political science professor Condoleezza Rice, neoconservative publisher Irving Kristol (since deceased), and Time managing editor Walter Isaacson.
The list was first published in 1999, when Time magazine named the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. Based on the popularity of the installment, in 2004, Time magazine decided to make it an annual issue, listing the 100 people most influencing the world. Those recognized fall in one of five categories: Leaders & Revolutionaries, Builders & Titans, Artists & Entertainers, Scientists & Thinkers, Heroes & Icons. Since then, the categories were amended to the following:Titans
List of individuals included in the TIME 100 in 2016
List of individuals included in the TIME 100 in 2015
List of individuals included in the TIME 100 in 2014
The official list of 100 most influential people were revealed on April 24, 2014 featuring Beyoncé on the US cover and Robert Redford, Jason Collins, and Mary Barra on its international covers. A record of 41 women are included in the edition, the highest number of female personalities in the list's history. The annual gala was held on April 29, 2014 in New York City.
Managing editor of Time, Nancy Gibbs says of the year's list:
List of individuals included in the TIME 100 in 2013
List of individuals included in the TIME 100 in 2012
List of individuals included in the TIME 100 in 2011
The original online sources refer to the list with the following quote: "Meet the most influential people in the world. They are artists and activists, reformers and researchers, heads of state and captains of industry. Their ideas spark dialogue and dissent and sometimes even revolution. Welcome to this year's TIME 100." The announcement was celebrated with a black-tie event in New York City on April 26, 2011. The honorees were joined by A-list celebrities at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center for the event. Time readers contributed to the selection by an online vote of over 200 finalists.
The list included familiar global newsmakers such as U.S. President Barack Obama and Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel as well as what the media describes as "newcomers" to the global press. The list included numerous figures representing the year of upheaval in the Middle East ranging from rebels, to political leaders to news correspondents. Although the events of what has been dubbed the Arab Spring were prominent, media figures unrelated to those events also figured in the list as well. Additionally, Prince William of Wales and Kate Middleton were part of the list during the week before their wedding. The list also included Katsunobu Sakurai, mayor of Minamisōma, Fukushima, which was the city most affected by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.
List of individuals included in the TIME 100 in 2010
In its online presentation, Time introduced the list as follows: "In our annual TIME 100 issue, we name the people who most affect our world". The overall list was organized with 4 main sub-lists: Leaders, featuring Sarah Palin and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva; Artists, featuring Conan O'Brien and Lady Gaga; and Thinkers, featuring Steve Jobs and Zaha Hadid. The list included 10 Indians. Oprah Winfrey continued her streak of having been included on every Time 100 list and was one of thirty-one women on the list. The list included many expected names and some surprises such as Scott Brown, who The Huffington Post described as a premature selection at that point in his career. Others who were considered surprise selections included Elton John, Ashton Kutcher, and Taylor Swift, according to the Daily Mail.
The announcement of the list was celebrated by a black tie gala at the Time Warner Center in New York City on May 4, 2010. The list was published the following day. Time readers contributed to the selection by an online vote of over 200 finalists.
List of individuals included in the TIME 100 in 2009
List of individuals included in the TIME 100 in 2008
List of individuals included in the TIME 100 in 2007
List of individuals included in the TIME 100 in 2006
List of individuals included in the TIME 100 in 2005
List of individuals included in the TIME 100 in 2004
Although each category is given equal weight during any given year, people from some science/political fields and heroes are more likely to make repeat appearances on the list from year to year. Repeat appearances are rare; only the following individuals have appeared more than twice.
In 2004, Time's editors "identified three rather distinct qualities", when choosing the Time 100 explained Time's editor-at-large Michael Elliott:
First, there were those who came to their status by means of a very public possession of power; President George W. Bush is the pre-eminent example. Others, though they are rarely heard from in public, nonetheless have a real influence on the great events of our time. Think of Ali Husaini Sistani, the Grand Ayatullah of Iraq's Shi'ites. Still others affect our lives through their moral example. Consider Nelson Mandela's forgiveness of his captors and his willingness to walk away from the South African presidency after a single term.
In the 2007 Time 100 list, managing editor Richard Stengel explained that the Time 100 was not a list of the hottest, most popular, or most powerful people, but rather the most influential, stating:
Influence is hard to measure, and what we look for is people whose ideas, whose example, whose talent, whose discoveries transform the world we live in. Influence is less about the hard power of force than the soft power of ideas and example. Yes, there are Presidents and dictators who can change the world through fiat, but we're more interested in innovators like Monty Jones, the Sierra Leone scientist who has developed a strain of rice that can save African agriculture. Or heroes like the great chessmaster Garry Kasparov, who is leading the lonely fight for greater democracy in Russia. Or Academy Award winning actor George Clooney who has leveraged his celebrity to bring attention to the tragedy in Darfur.
From 2005 to 2008, Time magazine awarded each Time 100 honoree Darko Mladenovic's Ray crystal sculpture produced by Swarovski.
The fact that the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair was excluded from the 2004 list caused mild controversy. Time editor-at-large Michael Elliott defended the decision to consistently exclude Blair:
Gerhard Schröder and Jacques Chirac are not there either. This is a worldwide list. There are no Western European political leaders on it because they are not that powerful or influential at this time.
Although George W. Bush has been on the list several times, controversy emerged when he was dropped from the list in 2007 in part because of the Democratic victory in the 2006 congressional election. Former Senator Rick Santorum (R–PA) of Fox News said:
The fact of the matter is, the president of the United States, I don't care who's in that office, is the most powerful man on the face of the Earth and has more influence over various aspects of lives, not just in this country, but around the world. And for Time magazine to dismiss that just shows you how biased and, I would argue, hateful they are.
"Any U.S. president has a certain built-in influence", explained Adi Ignatius, Time's deputy managing editor who oversaw the list at the time. "Bush had actually squandered some of that built-in influence. His position on Iraq has cost him support in his own party...To a certain point, he sort of reached a lame-duck status".
The list has generated controversy over who was included in other years as well. In 2005, conservative commentator Ann Coulter was listed, which led Salon to observe:
When Time magazine named Ann Coulter among its 100 "most influential people" last week, alongside such heavyweights as Ariel Sharon, Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Kim Jong Il, and the Dalai Lama, the choice produced guffaws online. Plugging the issue on Fox News last week, Time executive editor Priscilla Painton insisted it was Coulter's use of "humor" that made her so influential, stopping just short of suggesting that Coulter is the conservative Jon Stewart. But even Fox's Bill O'Reilly wasn't buying it. He pressed Painton: "Do you think people, Americans, listen to Ann Coulter? Do you think she has influence in public opinion?"
Time magazine defended Coulter as a bestselling author whose controversial commentary strongly affected the United States' political debates; she did not, however, make additional appearances on the list.
In 2010, Time faced mild oppositions when they excluded Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan from their list, even though he was said to be very much "in the race". Khan's fan following has been claimed to be one of the biggest in contemporary cinema and this decision came as a surprise to readers from many parts of the world.
In February 2016, Time included the British and male author Evelyn Waugh on its "100 Most Read Female Writers in College Classes" list (he was 97th on the list) which created much media attention and concerns about the level of basic education among the magazine's staff. Time later issued a retraction. In a BBC interview with Justin Webb a Corpus Christi College, Oxford University English professor named Valentine Cunningham stated the mistake was "a piece of profound ignorance on the part of Time magazine."
In 2009, the winner of the annual Time 100 online poll was moot, the founder of the 4chan website, who received 16,794,368 votes. Time magazine claimed that their technical team "did detect and extinguish several attempts to hack the vote". However, it was shown weeks before the poll ended that the results had been heavily influenced by hackers. The first letters of the top 21 names spell out "marblecake also the game". Marblecake, also an obscene 4chan meme, was the name of the IRC channel (which would appear on IRC as #marblecake) used for communication by some of the participants in rigging the poll.
A similar scheme was also performed in the 2012 Person of the Year poll when voting was rigged by members of 4chan's /b/ board to spell out, when sorted by descending positive votes, "KJU GAS CHAMBERS" with the first letter of the nominees' names, alluding to allegations that the North Korean government had been operating gas chambers near the Sino–Russian border. Similarly, when sorted in descending order by negative votes, the first letters of the names spell out [sic] "MM has CP buttsex",.
The Time 100 was cited in a 2008 academic analysis by Craig Garthwaite and Tim Moore, economists at the University of Maryland, College Park. In light of Oprah Winfrey at that time holding the record for most appearances on the Time 100, the economists decided to measure if Winfrey was influential enough to decide a U.S. presidential election by examining the impact of her endorsement of Barack Obama for president. The economists wrote the following:
Oprah Winfrey is a celebrity of nearly unparalleled influence. She has been named to Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people six times—more than any other individual, including the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Bill Gates, George Clooney, and Rupert Murdoch. She was named one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, an honor shared with Albert Einstein, Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. She was only one of four people who were included on these lists in both the 20th and 21st century. The others included Mandela, Gates, and Pope John Paul II.... The scope of Winfrey’s influence creates a unique opportunity to examine the effect of endorsements on political outcomes.
The economists found a statistically significant correlation between the number of Winfrey fans in a geographic region (as estimated by magazine sales and book club selections) and the number of votes Obama received in that region during the race for the 2008 Democratic presidential primary. They found that the correlation even held up when they controlled for all kinds of confounding variables like race, gender, income, education, and sales of other magazines. They further found that the correlation only emerged after Winfrey had endorsed Obama, suggesting that it was the influence of her endorsement that caused the correlation. When they statistically removed the correlation to see how Obama would have performed without Winfrey's endorsement, they found that over one million votes vanished from Obama’s total in the Democratic primary and that Clinton received far more votes.