The meaning of I/O: How Google’s annual event got its name

A quick search will give you two commonly cited explanations: The first is that the name stands for “input / output,” referencing the computational concept of interfacing between a computer system and the outside world — a fitting idea for the conference given that it’s when we offer everyone a behind-the-scenes look at Google.

The second explanation you’ll see is that I/O stands for “innovation in the open,” which also lines up with the event nicely: It’s a day when we spotlight things like cutting-edge AI research, breakthrough accessibility features, next-generation products or even whole new ways to communicate with each other.

Both origins are true, but there’s more to the story. For that, we have to dig deeper into I/O’s history, all the way back to May 2006, when we held our first-ever developer conference, Geo Developer Day. It was centered around our first publicly available developer tool, the Google Maps API, which launched the previous year. With just 100 attendees, the event was held in the Googleplex on Google’s Mountain View campus and was a fraction of the size of today’s I/O events.

Flash forward a year and our suite of developer tools had expanded significantly — and we needed a bigger event to represent our products and engage with our growing developer community. Thus, I/O was born.