Facebook cancels F8 conference, citing coronavirus concerns

Facebook has confirmed that it has canceled its annual F8 developers conference over growing concerns about the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

More specifically, the company says it’s canceling the “in-person component,” which would have been held in San Jose, Calif. There may still be video presentations, along with live-streamed and local events, under the F8 umbrella.

“Celebrating our global developer community at F8 each year is incredibly important to us at Facebook, but we won’t sacrifice the health and safety of our community to do so,” said Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, Facebook’s director of developer platforms and programs, in a statement. “Out of concerns around COVID-19, we’re cancelling the in-person component of F8, but we look forward to connecting with our developer partners through local events, video and live streamed content.”

The move follows the recent cancellation of the Mobile World Congress event, which was scheduled to happen this week in Barcelona. Meanwhile, a number of companies have pulled out of next month’s Game Developers Conference, although organizers said yesterday that the event will be “moving forward as planned.”

“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,” Papamiltiadis added in a blog post.

The official site notes that it will share additional details on the event “in the coming weeks.”

In order to mitigate the impact of the cancellation, Papamiltiadis said Facebook will be donating $500,000 (double the normal amount) to organizations working to make the tech industry more diverse, “and will prioritize organizations serving local San Jose residents.” He also noted that Facebook normally hosts local students as part of F8, so this year it will be providing them with “an F8-inspired experience” instead.

It remains to be seen what the fears around the disease will mean for other large tech events throughout the year; it’s already affecting the stock marketing and tech earnings. There have been more than 82,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 47 countries, according to the World Health Organization, resulting in around 2,800 deaths so far.

Update: Both Google and Microsoft are also scheduled to host their annual developer conferences in May. We have asked both companies for statements. “Yes, Google I/O is still planned for May 12 – 14 at Shoreline and there’s more specific info here for people planning to attend,” Google tells us. “We’ll continue to monitor developments around COVID-19 and follow the best practices laid out by the CDC, WHO, and other relevant entities.”

From Microsoft: “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.”