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Facebook scales back alternatives to F8 developers conference amid coronavirus outbreak

The social network cancelled F8 but was initially planning to host local events.

Facebook F8 2018 venue
The coronavirus outbreak prompted the cancellation of tech conferences such as F8.
James Martin/CNET
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Facebook said Thursday that it's no longer planning to host local events in place of its F8 developer conference, which was canceled in February over concerns about the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Instead, the company is going to do a series of updates throughout the year, and the first one will take place soon. Facebook didn't provide an exact date.

"Because we can't come together in person for F8 this year, Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook leaders will do a series of updates throughout the year to share what we're working on to help people connect, as well as updates to our developer products, where applicable," Facebook said in a statement.

In February, Facebook said it was planning to bring developers together through locally hosted events, videos and live streamed content. But that was before shelter-in-place orders were put into place.

"Given the shelter in place, locally hosted events aren't really an option at the moment and since our first update will be soon, there won't be a locally hosted event component for that," a Facebook spokesperson said. 

Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO and co-founder, also said in a post on Thursday that Facebook will require most of its employees to work from home through at least the end of May. The company is canceling any large physical events it had planned with 50 or more people through June 2021. Oculus Connect 7, which typically takes place in September in San Jose, will also be hosted virtually instead of in person. Facebook owns Oculus, a virtual reality headset maker.

"We're slowing our plans to return to the office in order to prioritize helping the rest of our community and local economy to get back up and running first," Zuckerberg said.

Facebook's mostly annual F8 conference was scheduled to take place at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center on May 5 and 6. It is a widely anticipated event, and last year attracted more than 5,000 developers, creators and entrepreneurs worldwide. 

The company has used F8 to announce new services such as a dating feature, a virtual reality headset and chatbots for its messaging app. Company executives have also provided a glimpse into Facebook's moonshot projects such as a brain computer interface that would allow users to type with their mind. Zuckerberg typically delivers a keynote speech during the event, providing an opportunity for the company to explain how it is tackling problems from privacy to misinformation.

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