Apple took WWDC online-only this year as a result of COVID-19. After 30-some years of the conference taking place between Santa Clara, San Jose, and San Francisco, there wasn’t precedent for this. While parts of WWDC (namely the sessions) had been easy to access online for several years, others like labs and live events were limited to on-site attendees only.
Last week we found out that, really, not much was missing. The keynote/state of the union still happened at the same times, but were pre-recorded around Apple’s campus. Sessions were released daily during the conference as videos of people talking over slide decks, rather than as presenters on stage in a conference hall. Labs were still held, but were done via teleconference and appointment. Even the Apple Design Awards and the lunch-time special guest events still happened. What was really missing was just the in-person face time from thousands of developers in one place, and the occasional event like the WWDC Bash.
But what was remarkable to me was how much better the week was as a whole. I attended WWDC in person from 2006 to 2015, and remotely since then, and this year’s conference was dramatically improved over both the onsite and online experience. So much so, that I don’t think WWDC should return as an in-person conference. Here’s why.