Facebook has canceled its upcoming F8 developer conference, scheduled for May 5 and 6, in face of the growing coronavirus outbreak. On Thursday, Facebook announced it was changing plans for its yearly confab that typically draws an estimated 5,000 developers.
Facebook’s F8 has become one of the company’s most important annual events, similar to Google I/O and Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference. It’s an opportunity for CEO Mark Zuckerberg to spotlight what Facebook has been building and show developers, publishers and brands how they can work with the social network moving forward. Zuckerberg typically lays out the company’s priorities for the year ahead in a widely viewed keynote address.
Facebook indicated that it tried to come up with a solution to save the event, but ruled out any option that would have barred international attendees from coming, according to a blog post on Thursday.
“This was a tough call to make—F8 is an incredibly important event for Facebook and it’s one of our favorite ways to celebrate all of you from around the world,” said Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, Facebook’s director of platform partnerships, in the blog post. “But we need to prioritize the health and safety of our developer partners, employees and everyone who helps put F8 on. 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.”
This week, a Facebook spokesperson said that it had not changed plans to attend next month’s SXSW in Austin, Texas. Snapchat and Twitter both said their plans for SXSW were also unchanged.
SXSW is set for March 13, and organizers have said there have been limited cancelations from would-be attendees, mostly from Asia, which has been hit hardest by the virus. SXSW organizers said they were monitoring the situation but had not planned to shut down the festival.
Facebook’s F8 announcement adds to a growing list of disruptions to events across industries around the world, as companies are responding to the coronavirus outbreak. Since January, tens of thousands of people have been infected with coronavirus, also called COVID-19, mostly in China. This week, U.S. health officials began warning that the virus could spread in the U.S. The virus is considered more deadly than most common flu strains. In recent weeks, it has caused worldwide markets to stumble and is affecting events around the world, particularly ones that draw masses of people.
Earlier this month, Facebook had already canceled a marketer summit and pulled out of attending the Game Developers Conference, both set for San Francisco in March. On Thursday, Microsoft joined Facebook, Sony and Electronic Arts in dropping out of the Game Developers Conference. Earlier this month, Mobile World Congress was canceled.
“We’re planning other ways for our community to get together through a combo of locally hosted events, videos and live streamed content,” Facebook’s F8 cancelation blog post said.