The spread of coronavirus is prompting companies to cancel nonessential travel. That includes trade shows like the smartphone-centric Mobile World Congress, which was scheduled to be held in Barcelona this week but was called off. Now Facebook has cancelled its own annual event, the F8 developer’s conference, citing “growing concerns around COVID-19.”
The move is clearly out of an abundance of caution: F8 was scheduled to take place in San Jose, California, May 5 and 6. Now all eyes are on Facebook’s rival companies, Google, Microsoft, and Apple, who also have developer conferences in the works for early summer. Google I/O is slated for May 12 through 14 in Mountain View, Microsoft’s Build is scheduled for the following week in Seattle, and Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference is typically held in the first half of June in San Jose.
Facebook’s Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, director of developer platforms, wrote in a Thursday blog post that the company is still planning local events and live-streamed sessions for developers to learn about changes and new features.
“This was a tough call to make—F8 is an incredibly important event for Facebook and it’s one of our favourite ways to celebrate all of you from around the world—but we need to prioritise the health and safety of our developer partners, employees and everyone who helps put F8 on,” Papamiltiadis wrote. “We explored other ways to keep the in-person part of F8, but it’s important to us to host an inclusive event and it didn’t feel right to have F8 without our international developers in attendance.”
Microsoft also announced Thursday that it will no longer attend the annual Game Developers Conference, slated for March 16 through 20 in San Francisco. The company joins Epic, Unity, and Sony in withdrawing from the event due to the coronavirus outbreak. Microsoft plans to host an online event that will coincide with GDC for developer sessions and announcements March 16 through 18. It’s unclear if GDC will be cancelled or proceed without some of gaming’s biggest players.
It makes sense that voluntary conferences and trade shows be called off to stem the spread of COVID-19. Facebook and Microsoft don’t want to be the reason for a severe outbreak, nor do they want to be in the news for encouraging people to travel when they don’t need to. Developers will miss out on networking opportunities, but they’ll still be able to learn about the latest developments despite the lack of in-person sessions. At this point, it’s better to be safe than sorry.