Facebook announced today that it's pulled the plug on its F8 conference in San Jose, California, because of worries about the novel coronavirus. The news follows the cancellation of Mobile World Congress (MWC) that was scheduled to take place in Barcelona this week. Other tech events like the Game Developers Conference (GDC) and PAX East have also seen big tech companies pull out because of concerns for the safety of their employees.
"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 said on the F8 website on Thursday. "We plan to replace the in-person F8 event with locally hosted events, videos and live-streamed content."
Other events could get canned — There’s a good chance other developer conferences like Apple's WWDC and Google's I/O could be canceled if the situation with the coronavirus doesn't improve substantially in months to come. The same fate could also befall South by South West (SXSW) and even the Tokyo Olympics if the coronavirus becomes a full-blown pandemic.
Facebook began limiting travel to China for its employees in January, and this month announced it wouldn't be attending GDC 2020. The company has also joined Twitter and Google in trying to combat misinformation about the virus on its platform, and this week began banning ads claiming to offer cures or intended to cause hysteria.
While conference organizers must be feeling very bleak about their prospects for 2020, we suspect event some attendees are going to be perfectly happy to attend smaller, local or remote briefings, or to simply get news of big announcements digitally. Many will see that as preferable to enduring airports, air travel, and crammed conference halls alongside thousands of strangers with the sort of scant regard for personal space usually reserved for subway cars during rush hour. Or perhaps that's just us.