Facebook cancels F8: How the coronavirus is disrupting tech conferences worldwide

Facebook is the latest to cancel as tech trade shows around the globe are impacted by novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Microsoft and Epic Games dropped out of GDC, and SXSW has cancellations.

Facebook has now cancelled its F8 developer conference due to the coronavirus, citing concerns about COVID-19. 

Tech conferences around the world began to be affected in mid-February when GSMA cancelled Mobile World Congress in Barcelona after a massive exodus of exhibitors. Then, Facebook pulled out of its Global Marketing Summit scheduled for San Francisco early next month. Now, there are near-daily announcements of companies pulling out of conferences or trade shows being postponed or cancelled. 

The cancellations are due to fear of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The CDC has now 66 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the US, including 47 cases among repatriated individuals. The latest four cases in the US are individuals that have contracted the disease from unknown sources, making them the first possible “community spread” instances of the disease in the US. The cases are in Oregon, Washington state and California.

So far, there have been more than 2,867 deaths from coronavirus around the world, and there are 83,861 cases globally. Hospitals in the US and the UK are preparing for a coronavirus outbreak. China has been the hardest hit, but new cases are slowing there and factories are starting to reopen. However, coronavirus is now spreading around the world and other nations are hunkering down as they prepare for an onslaught of cases. 

There are CDC health screenings in place in the US for qualified travelers arriving from international destinations at the San Francisco International Airport, and there is a CDC quarantine station at SFO, the airport where many travelers arrive for conferences in northern California. 

SEE: Coronavirus having major effect on tech industry beyond supply chain delays (free PDF) (TechRepublic)  

The city of San Francisco has issued a state of emergency, and Mayor London Breed made an emergency declaration on Tuesday to strengthen the city’s response to the virus.

“Although there are still zero confirmed cases in San Francisco residents, the global picture is changing rapidly, and we need to step-up preparedness,” Breed said in a statement. “We see the virus spreading in new parts of the world every day, and we are taking the necessary steps to protect San Franciscans from harm.”

No one wants to be around large groups of people with the risk of transmitting the coronavirus a real possibility or, at the very least, a real fear. As a result, trade shows are cancelling as major exhibitors are pulling out and major companies are either restrictions or eliminating employee travel. Here’s the latest roundup. 

Tech conferences that have cancelled

Facebook announced on Thursday that it was cancelling its global developer conference, F8. The conference was scheduled to take place on May 6-8 in San Jose, Calif. It will hold some smaller local events in lieu of the main conference, and it will share videos and live-stream content. It will also donate $500,000 to an organization working to diversify the tech industry and prioritize organizations serving San Jose residents. 

Facebook also cancelled a Global Marketing Summit slated for San Francisco on March 9-12. In a statement, the company said, “Out of an abundance of caution, we canceled our Global Marketing Summit due to evolving public health risks related to coronavirus.”

Google cancelled its Google News Initiative Summit due to concerns about the coronavirus. The conference had been scheduled for late April in Sunnyvale, Calif. “We regret that we have to cancel our global Google News Initiative summit but the health and wellbeing of our guests is our number one priority,” Richard Gingras, vice president of news at Google, said in a statement.

GSMA, which produces MWC, announced on February 12 that it was cancelling the event in Barcelona. It was scheduled to take place Feb. 24-27 in Barcelona and normally attracts more than 100,000 visitors and is the largest show in the world focusing on mobile devices. The show was cancelled after tech giants such as LG, Sony, Nvidia, ZTE, Ericsson, Amazon and Intel pulled out of the show.

Cisco Systems cancelled Cisco Live Melbourne, scheduled for March 3-6 in Melbourne, Australia, saying in a statement, “Due to ongoing concerns about the current outbreak of Coronavirus, Cisco has made the difficult decision to cancel Cisco Live Melbourne…Our customers, partners and employees are our top priority and we strongly believe this is the right decision given the current circumstances. Our thoughts are with those directly impacted by this situation.”

Altho not specifically a tech conference, the 2020 Geneva Motor Show was officially cancelled on Friday, with the Swiss government banning events of 1,000 or more people until March 15, due to the coronavirus. The event was due to begin on March 3. The Beijing Motor Show, originally scheduled for April, was cancelled as well.

SEE: Coronavirus kills MWC, IBM withdraws from RSA: What about Kaspersky’s Security Analyst Summit? (ZDNet)

Tech conferences with exhibitors pulling out

RSA ran from Feb. 24-28 in San Francisco. IBM, AT&T and Verizon withdrew in the days before the conference began, citing concerns over the coronavirus. In all, fourteen companies, including six from China, opted out of the event due to coronavirus concerns

There were more than 40,000 people expected in San Francisco for RSA, but conference organizers said they would not have final numbers until after the conference was over.

IBM posted on Twitter, “The health of IBMers is our primary concern as we continue to monitor upcoming events and travel relative to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).” 

The Game Developers Conference (GDC), scheduled for March 16-20 in San Francisco and where publishers and developers preview new gaming tech, has seen Microsoft, Sony, Epic Games, EA, Unity, Facebook and Kojima drop out, and so have all China-based attendees. The future of the conference is in doubt with more studios in mass exodus. GDC announced there will be enhanced cleaning measures in place to protect the health of attendees.

Infinera announced on February 27 that it has withdrawn from the Optical Networking and Communication Conference & Exhibition (OFC 2020) in San Diego on March 8-12, “due to the ongoing public health concern over the novel coronavirus. In lieu of the company’s attendance at OFC, Infinera is planning a virtual event to showcase its latest innovations,” the company said in a press release.

Tech conferences that have changed formats

Salesforce World Tour Sydney has gone from an in-person conference to an online-only event on March 4. “Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our stakeholders. Over the last few months, we have been closely monitoring the evolving situation with the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak to ensure we are taking every precaution to look after our customers, partners, and employees,” the company posted on its website. “After careful consideration of our stakeholders and reflection on our values, we’ve decided to change the format of our World Tour in person event on Wednesday 4 March to be an online experience.” 

It’s not a tech conference, but even popular K-pop musical group BTS changed formats for its press conference in Seoul, South Korea on Sunday, and went digital in a streaming-only version, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Due to the spread of coronavirus, Big Hit has decided to proceed with the ‘BTS Global Press Conference’ via YouTube livestream only, without inviting the press onsite, as a measure to mitigate the risks,” said Big Hit Entertainment, the Korean company that manages BTS, in a statement.

Tech conferences that have been postponed

EmTech Asia has been postponed from March 24-36 in Singapore, to August 4-5. The organizers of the international technology summit said they decided to postpone the event due to concerns over the coronavirus.

Black Hat Asia, originally scheduled for March 31 to April 3 in Singapore, has been postponed until September 29-October 2. The website has a notice, “After careful consideration of the health and safety of our attendees and partners, we have made the difficult decision to postpone Black Hat Asia 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak. We understand the inconvenience this may cause and will follow up directly with all of those who are scheduled to attend and exhibit to determine appropriate next steps.”

Tech conferences with no big changes, yet

SXSW, in Austin, Texas from March 13-22, is still on as scheduled but SXSW organizers have noted a handful of cancellations amid the coronavirus scare. The conference include various programming tracks including music, art, film and technology. The conference organizers have included links to coronavirus information for attendees with questions.  

Google has not yet announced any plans to cancel its own annual developer conference, Google I/O, scheduled for May 12-14 in Mountain View, Calif.

This article was updated on February 29, 2020.

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Facebook cancels its F8 developer conference.

” data-credit=”Image: Getty Images” rel=”noopener noreferrer nofollow”>Facebook developer conference F8

Facebook cancels its F8 developer conference.

Image: Getty Images

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