It turns out that Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress was not the only big tech event to fall victim to the coronavirus. Facebook has canceled the 2020 edition of its F8 developer conference, citing “the growing concerns around COVID-19.” The event—which was to take place on May 5 and 6 in San Jose, California—will be replaced with live-streamed content, local meetings, and other elements less susceptible to risks and fears associated with the coronavirus.
This is a rare example of @Facebook being voluntarily responsible. It’s a big deal for them. And it’s a sign of just how seriously U.S.-based companies are beginning to take the Coronavirus. https://t.co/Z1GUC6Ev7r
— Walt Mossberg (@waltmossberg) February 27, 2020
In recent years, F8 has been the first event in a busy season of tech-giant developer conferences—which, along with educating engineers, also serve as a platform to announce major products aimed at consumers. Two Google developer conferences are coming up: Cloud Next on April 6-8 and I/O from May 12-14. Microsoft’s Build is scheduled for May 19-21. Apple hasn’t announced dates for WWDC yet, but last year it took place from June 3-7. And Amazon’s Re:Mars, an AI event, is currently set for June 16-19.
Will any of them take place as planned? Facebook’s difficult decision could prompt other big companies to pull their own respective plugs sooner rather than later, before too many would-be attendees have booked travel. These events have become so instrumental to the industry’s rhythms that it’s not clear what would happen if they just went away. Or whether things would just go back to normal in 2021, assuming that the world is feeling less alarmed about the coronavirus by then.