Giant cranes and video games: How I/O went digital

I/O is a major undertaking under normal circumstances, and it took a unique brand of elbow grease this year. But after I/O 2020 was canceled due to the pandemic, Google’s developer relations and marketing teams couldn’t let another year pass without it. 

“Apps and the web became even more integrated into our daily lives over the past year,” says VP of Engineering Jason Titus. “They helped us stay healthy, connected and productive — and this served to spotlight how developers were really part of helping us adapt to the challenges of 2020.” 

Planning for this year’s event began nearly as soon as I/O 2020 was canceled. The team agreed on an event primarily focused on live broadcast but that also offered flexibility for participants, while also respecting how different parts of the world were experiencing the pandemic. It would be a three-day digital event, with a mix of live keynotes, pre-recorded technical sessions and interactive features — and it would be unlike anything Google had created before.  

Online, everyone’s invited

Taking the event virtual had a big upside: More of Google’s global developer community could attend, for free. This year, there were 225,000 registrations, mostly from outside the U.S. 

“Going digital meant we had the freedom to think of new ways to deliver technical content,” says Elizabeth Cha, who leads developer marketing. “It seemed the best way to be helpful to developers this year was to give greater access to our technical experts and let the developer community support one another. So beyond the usual technical sessions and Codelabs, we’re offering Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions, instructor-led workshops and meetups.”



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