Google I/O Sellout: Devs Cry Foul

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Google I/O, the company’s annual developer conference, is a sellout. But it’s not necessarily a hit with developers, many of whom are complaining about the way tickets were allotted.

Google SVP Vic Gundotra on Tuesday published a Google+ post noting that tickets for Google I/O sold out 20 minutes after they were made available. “We were experiencing 6,250 [queries per second] load on our servers at 7:01 am!” he declared.

Google expects about 5,500 attendees at Google I/O 2012, which will run for three days this year–June 27 through June 29–instead of two.

Gundotra expressed sympathy for the plight of developers denied tickets and noted that Google will stream the keynote and important sessions live, and will make all conference sessions available on video within 24 hours after they take place. He also said there will be Google I/O viewing parties around the world.

The conference ran out of tickets about three times faster than it did in 2011, when it sold out in just under an hour. And the 2012 price is twice what it was in 2011: The tickets cost $900 this year, up from the $450 early-bird price last year.

Google offered 2011 developer conference tickets for $550 to those buying them April 17, 2011, or later. But the company made no sales at that price because the event sold out on February 7, 2011, the day the tickets were made available.

Even at $900, tickets apparently weren’t priced too high for developers: One Google I/O ticket has already sold for $2,700 on eBay and several others are being offered in the $3,000 to $4,000 range.

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Those buying Google I/O tickets on eBay might not be able to use them: Asked about the resale market for Google I/O tickets, a Google spokesperson said that the company’s ticket policy is that they cannot be resold. “You can request to transfer your ticket to another attendee by sending an email to with ‘Transfer Request’ in the title,” the spokesperson said in an email. “You will receive instructions on the transfer process, but it will require the new attendee to register using their Google+ account. Transfers are allowed at our discretion.”

Asked specifically whether tickets sold via eBay will be honored, Google’s spokesperson reiterated that “all ticket transfers are at the discretion of our team.”

As a point of comparison, Apple sold all 5,000 or so of its $1,600 2011 Worldwide Developer Conference tickets in about 12 hours. After-market pricing on eBay was also in the $2,500 to $3,500 range.

Google for the past three years has given away Android hardware to attendees, and last year also gave away Chromebooks. Whether the doubling of Google I/O ticket prices reflects an effort to defray gift expenses, or to pay for more valuable gifts this year, remains to be seen.

The cost increase could merely be a way to price tickets more toward what the market will bear or to make the event self-supporting, as Google has done with some of its products.

Google said that Google I/O 2012 tickets were made available on a first-come-first served basis, but on Google+, many developers who claim to have tried to buy tickets as soon as they were offered for sale are complaining that the process isn’t fair.

Many of the comments posted to Vic Gundotra’s announcement criticize Google for its ticketing process. “As a professional Android dev, it’s very disappointing to not get a ticket despite hitting the register button at three seconds after 7am PST,” complained developer Dan Hill. “It’s even more frustrating that there are tickets being sold on eBay for 5x face value. Something is clearly broken when scalpers can get tickets but eager developers can’t.”

With some 5,500 tickets for sale and 6,250 queries per second, hitting the register button even one second after the moment of ticket availability would be too late, were it not for the throttled processing capacity of Google’s ticketing system and the data entry limitations of ticket buyers.

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