In the last few years, developers worldwide have flocked to the San Francisco Bay Area to participate in Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference. When there, developers could have access to individual one-on-one developer sessions, engineering workshops, and developer forums. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was no surprise that Apple would have to rethink this year’s WWDC format.
From my sofa at home, I usually watch the WWDC conference, as many people do. I have never been able to go across the country to witness the conference and participate in the many sessions and workshops beyond their usual and televised software releases. But this year was different. Sitting in the same place I always do, I was able to access everything – all the exclusive sessions and workshops, right from my iPad. How did this happen? Apple made it all virtual.
Any person who held an Apple Developer Account, the same account that allows someone to publish apps on the iOS App Store and get access to some exclusive APIs, could log into any session they wanted. The daily session schedule was posted on the brand-new Apple Developer application. Anyone could see the sessions, read about it, and choose to access it at their leisure.
This change by Apple was just in response to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, the benefits extend far beyond just weary travelers. Young people like me, who don’t necessarily have the means to hop in a plane every year to California and crowd Apple’s theaters, are often left out. They lose an opportunity to learn about the latest additions to iOS and how to code for them, as well as a chance to learn from other developers and grow from that. The 2020 WWDC Conference was extremely successful, especially due to the removal of the barriers to attend, allowing thousands of people to join from around the world.
Of course, Apple may change the 2021 WWDC conference back to in-person, and everyone will return to the old normal. But one of the things this pandemic allows us all to do is return even better than before. If Apple notices the success of the virtual format of this year’s conference, maybe they will be able to combine some of the virtual elements into their traditional format, giving developers around the world best of both worlds and allowing people without the means of travel, from young people to people with illness, a chance to participate in some of those very exciting and important workshops and sessions.