WWDC19 Ticket Lottery

22 March 2019

WWDC is a ticketed event, and in all my years working with Apple and following the Apple dev-community, I have never known anyone to attend. Tickets are rare and exclusive and is normally something I would watch live in the comfort of my own home, with a laptop and Safari. Visiting San Jose and attending WWDC was something of dreams only.

However getting a ticket is nothing more than pot luck, and here’s why:

For anyone who’s familiar with WWDC, you’ll already understand the drill. However for anyone else the whole process of acquiring a ticket can be a little confusing. In previous years, Apple simply put WWDC tickets on sale: allowing any developer with quick fingers to buy tickets as soon as they were released – typically 9am PDT. The issue however, was that for anyone else outside of California, making sure you were next to a computer ready to buy tickets as soon as they were released was near on impossible. And as a result of WWDCs limited number of tickets and popularity amongst hard core Apple fans, it woudn’t be un-common for 5000 tickets to sell out in a matter of minutes!

To help make the whole process fairer, Apple decided to implement a lottery based ticket system. The process was simple: anyone who wanted to attend WWDC would enter into the lottery draw. However as always with Apple, there were a few caveats. Firstly you need to be an existing and registered Apple Developer in order to attend. Luckily for me, I have been an Apple developer for nearly 7 years. Secondly, to help prevent unwanted submissions, Apple requires any one entering to also supply their credit card details. Why? Because the moment the lucky few are randomly picked, Apple will charge their accounts for the full price of a WWDC ticket – which in 2019 happened to be £1200 ($1599 USD). And finally, transferring tickets into a different name or requesting a refund are strictly not possible. So deciding to enter the lottery is something not to be taken lightly.

I personally wasn’t too sure about entering the WWDC lottery – purely due to the costs involved. Flying from the UK, I would need to foot the bill for a £1000 plane ride, find accomodation in San Jose during peak tourist season which would likely cost a further £2000, cover food and expenses (~£1000) and also factor in the costs of the WWDC ticket. In total I had estimated the whole experience to cost me somewhere in the region of £5K… not exactly short change in my world (even as a director of an app development studio). However on a whim, I threw my name into the digital hat and thought nothing more of it.

A few days later, I was at my desk wrapping up for the day. It was about 5pm when an email landed into my inbox.

Dear James,
We have great news. You’ve been randomly selected to attend WWDC19.

Wait… what…? Could it be? Upon seeing the email a wave of excitement hit me. Out of the tens of thousands that apply for WWDC each year without any luck, I had just been randomly picked by Apple to attend.

To double check this wasn’t a hoax, a few hours after the ticket allocation ‘transaction’ you can log into your Apple Developer Account to see a new ‘events’ tab – containing your WWDC ticket. So it was now 100% official – I was heading to San Jose in June.

Details that accompany the email were thin: I expect Apple take a back seat as much as possible to avoid them being responsible for 5000 needy developers – however one thing their congratulations email did mention was accommodation and the need to book it quick.

Within minutes of receiving the congratulations email, I found myself on AirBnB…

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