There was a time when Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) was a sleepy affair, with plenty of tickets available and no lines to get in to most sessions. But as Apple has grown, the event has transformed into the biggest single event on the calendar of Apple events.
Remarkably, as WWDC's popularity has exceeded the capacity of the event itself, it has still managed to find a way to grow. It started as a quirk a couple of years ago, but it has turned into a full-blown trend: Hundreds, if not thousands, of people who work in Apple-related fields or just love Apple stuff, flock to San Francisco for WWDC week even if they don't have a ticket to the event.
It was not always this way. In the last decade I clearly remember organizers of various conferences attempting to build events that would run alongside WWDC. The idea was that if Apple developers were in town for the week, perhaps IT professionals or designers or marketing people could come along, and go to their own conferences alongside Apple's.
It was a good idea, but Apple hated it. And so the company used its clout with Moscone Center to get local hotels to refuse bookings for competing events during WWDC. Maybe Apple was afraid that WWDC would no longer be the focus of the week and might actually be diminished as an event--but if I had to guess, I think the Apple of that era was paranoid about any other group or company riding on Apple's coattails, even if such events might have actually been a net positive for the Apple community at large.
There's been a lot of talk about "the new Apple" lately, which generally describes the changes we have seen in how the company presents itself to the world under Tim Cook's leadership, and following the departure of longtime communications head Katie Cotton. I am not sure Apple has thrown away its playbook, but it certainly seems to be revising it. There was plenty of evidence of that this week in San Francisco.
This week, running alongside WWDC, were not just various parties and get-togethers sponsored by various groups, but actual conferences running in parallel with Apple's conference and while they were not exactly endorsed by Apple, neither were they crushed like a bug so that Apple could be the only game in town this week.
For the last few years AltConf has run alongside WWDC, providing interesting Apple-related speakers. This year, the conference also streamed the Apple keynote to attendees who could not get into the room. Even there, a potential conflict with Apple over a public showing of Apple's content was resolved amicably.
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