Google cancels its biggest event of the year due to Covid-19

4 Mar 2020

Image: © rcfotostock/

Google’s I/O event has been called off, joining a growing list of global tech events that have been axed to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

As the coronavirus has spread in recent weeks, a number of large technology conferences and events have been significantly impacted. It began with the axing of Mobile World Congress and the postponing of the Game Developers Conference, and has continued steadily.

This week, Facebook and Twitter announced that they were pulling out of SXSW, Google cancelled its cloud-focused event Cloud Next, which was set to attract 30,000 to San Francisco, and Nvidia called off its GPU Technology Conference, which was set to take place in San Jose later this month.

Now, Google has announced that its biggest event of the year, the I/O developers conference, has been cancelled. The event was scheduled to run from 12 to 14 May.

I/O 2020

Google said that the event, which was set to take place in Mountain View, California, has been called off “due to concerns around the coronavirus, and in accordance with health guidance from the CDC, WHO and other health authorities”.

The event was announced in January and the ticket application process took place in February. Google has informed ticket holders that they will receive a full refund by 13 March, and said that guests who registered for the event will not need to enter next year’s ticket draw and will be “automatically granted the option of purchasing an I/O 2021 ticket”.

Google also said that it is looking to “explore other ways to evolve Google I/O to best connect with our developer community”. According to, the company plans to provide $1m to local Mountain View organisations to lessen the economic impact of losing the 7,000 visitors that were due to visit the area in May.

Google has also announced that it would be making the Google For Games Developer Summit an online event, while Cloud Next will become a “digital connect” event, which includes “interactive learning” and digital Q&A sessions with speakers. It’s expected that I/O will follow suit.

The news comes as Business Insider reported that Google has banned all international travel for employees.

The massive impact on tech events

According to Vox, the string of tech event cancellations over the past two months have cost more than $500m – a figure that just covers the losses to airlines, hotels, restaurants and transportation providers that would benefit from the influx of visitors.

There is no accurate estimate for how much tech companies have lost due to the measures they have taken to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. This would include losses from event sponsors, employee purchases and other aspects of the events.

In February, when Mobile World Congress was called off, businesses told BBC the cancellation was a “nightmare” that had seen start-ups and small businesses spend significant amounts of money for the conference and lose access to potential clients.

Of the $500m figure, Vox said that around $480m came directly from the cancellation of Mobile World Congress, which was expecting 100,000 attendees. The publication estimated that the cancellation of I/O has resulted in losses of nearly $20m.

According to PredictHQ, which gathered the data for Vox, there was a 500pc increase in event cancellations and postponements in February. However, some events may still go ahead as planned, including Apple’s developers conference in June and the SXSW music and tech festival in Austin next week.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic