Facebook Cancels F8 Over Coronavirus Fears, Others Monitoring Situation

COVID-19 swallows another major tech event. Will other conferences follow?

Why This Matters

Springtime is traditionally developer conference season, but the spread of the deadly Coronavirus has upended those plans. Considering the recent cancellation of Mobile World Congress in Spain, perhaps it’s not surprising. However, with Facebook’s 13-year-old F8 developers conference now cancelled for this year, all eyes are turning to Apple, Microsoft, and Google, all of which have massive developer events planned for the U.S. in May or June. As a tech consumer, these cancellations may impact the rollout of future technologies and products.

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Facebook’s F8 developers conference will not be held in San Jose on May 5th and 6th. The social media giant announced the cancellation of its long-running conference in a blog post on Thursday. “In light of the growing concerns around COVID-19, we’ve made the difficult decision to cancel the in-person component of F8 this year, in order to prioritize the health and safety of our developer partners, employees, and everyone who helps put F8 on,” the company wrote.

The big picture: Even with the cancellation of the San Jose-based conference, Facebook still plans to offer live-stream videos and local events to announce its upcoming product and technology plans. It even plans to double its donation to local organizations working on diversifying the tech industry, but will prioritize organizations serving San Jose, likely a nod to the cancellation’s local economic impact.

Is this a trend? Google, Apple, and Microsoft also have major developer events planned in May and June.

  • Google I/O is up first, potentially running from May 12-14 at Google’s Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, CA. A company spokesman told me via email the tech conference is still on but added “We'll continue to monitor developments around COVID-19 and follow the best practices laid out by the CDC, WHO, and other relevant entities.”
  • Microsoft Build runs from May 19-21 in Seattle, Washington. A company spokesperson told me via email, “Our plans to host Build 2020 remain unchanged. The safety of our employees is a top priority and we will evaluate the situation and adjust plans as necessary.” The company did, however, pull out of the annual Games Developer Conference (GDC 2020, March 16-18 in San Francisco). The decision was made, Microsoft reps told me, "out of an abundance of caution."
  • Apple has yet to announce official dates from its Worldwide Developer Conference, but it’s typically held in the first or second week of June. I've asked the company for comment on its plans.

I’m not a developer: Most of us are not developing hardware or software for any of these platforms, but most of us are their customers. Without these developer conferences, news about updates may eke out slowly, developers may find it harder to access information about upcoming plans, and could even delay their own product updates and rollouts until they can meet with these companies in person. Developer conference delays could impact iPhone development, iOS, Mac OS, Windows, Google Search, Android, and more.

Bottom line: The spread of the Coronavirus has, based on some reports, slowed across China. But the spread outside that country appears to be accelerating. The fallout across myriad industries is sure to be felt for weeks, if not months. In the tech space, it’s impacting everything from manufacturing in China to the delivery of the next iPhone, to tech conferences, and, now, developer conferences. The best assumption when it comes to what will or won’t be impacted by the virus is to make no assumptions at all.

Updated on 2-27-20202 at 4:40 PM ET with details on Microsoft's GDC 2020 decision.

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