After three intense days of activity, Google I/O has wrapped for the year. Unlike last year, there wasn’t a slew of new announcements we couldn’t demo, but there were lots of updates to last year’s announcements. In some ways it felt a little like I/O 2016 revisited: Assistant hit iOS, Daydream standalone headsets are on the way, Google Home got new features, Android Instant Apps are now available for everyone, and so on. But what about the event itself? How did Google handle the criticisms of last year and was it any better this time around?
The answer is a resounding yes. For a variety of reasons, a lot of folks won’t ever get the chance to attend Google I/O in person. So we put together a short walkthrough video to give you a feel for what it’s like to be on the ground at the Shoreline Amphitheatre at the Mountain View Googleplex.
But what that video won’t show is the blazing sun, the energy and excitement of the attendees and the sense of community that permeates the entire space. As journalists we may be outside the core developer audience, but we orbit the same Google nucleus and enjoy the event in equal measure.
Chief among the issues with last year’s I/O was the question of seating. There was insufficient seating at sessions, no overflow spaces, and no reserved places. This year it was possible to reserve a seat for all sessions: so you knew ahead of time that you were either guaranteed a seat or that you’d have to take your chances with the standby line. The stages were huge with a lot of available seating and if you were unable to get in you could simply grab a patch of grass in the shade and watch the livestream.
The event itself was also a lot more polished. The Burning Man-esque vibe was absent this time around with a lot more focus put on the sessions, keynotes and office hours than on the festival atmosphere. For some this may have been a little disappointing, but for me it felt a lot more appropriate for the event.
The upshot of the lack of distractions was that the focus instead became the people – both Googlers and attendees – and the opportunities for them to meet one another and exchange ideas. There was also a lot more shaded areas for chilling out and catching up with people.
While lining up still typically occurred in the sun, which got increasingly hotter as the week progressed, the session lines moved very fast and at no time did I feel at risk of sun stroke like I did on the daily last year. Likewise, you could hardly walk ten meters without stumbling across a water station or bucket of icy cold drinks, so staying hydrated was a breeze.
At I/O 2017 it was also a lot easier to find stages, the food lines moved quickly thanks to pre-prepared plates (as opposed to ordering from disparate food trucks last year), there were stanchens for more orderly queueing and everywhere you looked were signs showing what was coming up next, what was inside or where to go for the thing you were after.
Across the board, everything felt much better organized and less slapped together this year. There was a nice parallel between seeing Google’s progress with managing the event as there was in hearing about its progress on the topic of each session. While Google still can’t do too much about the California heat in mid-May, it can be as prepared as best as possible (as can attendees).
All in all, there was a lot less to complain about this year, even if the major unexpected announcements were a little thinner on the ground. Google deserves a real pat on the back for sticking with Shoreline and for listening to the feedback from last year’s attendees. Google I/O 2017 is an event no one will forget, but this year it’ll be for all the right reasons.
If you weren’t able to make it to this year’s Google I/O, we wanted to give you a chance to own a limited edition piece of it. Watch the video above to find out what you can win and how to enter!