The Story Behind the World’s Most Viewed Photo, the Windows XP ‘Bliss’ Wallpaper

As of yesterday, Microsoft no longer supports Windows XP. And in honor of one of the longest-living operating systems, the above video takes a look at the story behind what is arguably XP’s most recognized quality: the ‘Bliss’ wallpaper that came stock on every machine.


Captured by photographer Charles O’Rear, the iconic image has been deemed the most viewed image in the world, despite the exact numbers of XP sales being unknown.

Coming in at just shy of nine minutes, the video proves to be an insightful look at the photographer behind the image, the landscape he captured, and what made this particular photo so iconic.

  • Samcornwell

    And we still don’t know how much Bill Gates paid for it.

  • Goatman

    Mr. O’Rear probably signed an NDA regarding compensation, I bet it was a lot considering they bought the photo, not just licensed it.

  • Chrisski

    Gates probably paid very little for it!

  • Matias Gonua

    White house uses windows? That explains a lot.

  • Dada

    An image buyout will run you roughly 50k-70k but given when this was purchased, it’s probably much less.

  • Ed Rhodes

    Great story!

  • Ellis Vener

    I remember at the time that the exclusive licensing fee paid to Corbis and split 50/50 wth O’Rear was (and probably remains) the single largest licensing fee for a stock photo, rumored to be in the millions of dollars.

  • Ed Rhodes

    So would MS own the other 3 similar shots taken as well?

  • 12341233412412

    well 25 cent on shutterstock or getty….

  • ollychad

    it was obviously enough that ups and fedex didn’t want to transport it, that doesnt sound very little

  • Brian Carey

    Great story!

  • agour

    Doubt it. Not if he went through Corbis! Probably a very nice six figure sum

  • Matt

    It is a good photo. And, he is right, it will live well beyond XP. Interesting the impact and life of it.

  • Mr Hogwallop

    When the image was licensed the rumors were $135,000 being the fee.

  • chphotovideo

    Even if they do not own those exact frames, its a professional courtesy to not sell/license them.
    Plus if someone else did buy the image and used it, (I would think) MS could sue because its so close their image and would be considered false advertising for X company using said images.

  • Vin Weathermon

    He really should shoot the next version of Windows. The ones since are forgettable.

  • chuck

    It’s been an amazing ride. Video was shot Saturday by a film crew from the Netherlands. HTH did it make it here so quickly?

  • Josh Withers

    I got to assist Chuck back in the late 90’s. He’s a great guy. I’m glad he was able to cash in on this image.

  • John

    I only hear the music. no voice

  • Sofia Caden

    Microsoft xp support ended now what about the ATM softwares using xp machines …Hackers alert

  • el toro bumingo

    Nice story :)

  • Raffaele Capasso

    very nice story, I’m afraid we won’t hear another one like this anymore

  • pixeljammer

    Didn’t they have an even more widely-seen photo that was entirely blue?

  • Sum_it

    The internet is quick on these matters, Chuck :)

    Thanks for sharing your image with the world!

  • Joel Penner

    I’m quite certain that I’ve driven past this hill. Now I want to dig through my images. :)

  • alealeale ale

    Like what?

  • Guest

    That Windows XP background looks nice on Windows 7.

  • harumph

    If you’ve driven from Sonoma to Napa, then you’ve driven past it. Although one hill is fairly indistinguishable from the next there, so you would have had to have pulled off near the exact same spot in order to have a shot of it. I guess you’d have to line it up with the range peeking over the left hand side of the image to tell.

  • Woody ONeal

    Getty would have screwed this up.

  • Matias Gonua

    Like… a lot.

  • jp

    I’m curious too. “A lot” of what?

  • Halfrack

    Thanks for sharing the background Chuck, and yea, with the timing I’m a little surprised that more people weren’t knocking on your door.

    I’m looking forward to a weekend or two with a RZ67. Nothing more entertaining than the clunk of a MF mirror.

  • Alchemist

    would be a total breakdown if they used mac.

  • Matias Gonua

    A lot is so much that it can’t be typed on a single post. Windows XP, seriously?

  • Matias Gonua

    It’d be laughable.

  • Sikandar Alexander Soin

    this man is SOOOO boring