Did WWDC Really Sell Out In 2 Minutes, Or Is Apple Covering Up?

wwdc-sold-out

WWDC tickets sold out unbelievably quickly this year. We knew it was highly unlikely they’d be available for as long as the two hours it took them to sell out last year, but we also weren’t expecting them all to disappear in under two minutes.

But did Apple really sell out of WWDC tickets that fast?

The Cupertino company has since been calling developers to offer them a place at its event this June, and that’s led some to question whether all tickets were really sold or whether Apple’s too embarrassed to admit that its servers couldn’t cope with the demand they received when tickets went on sale.

Instapaper creator Marco Arment suggests this may be the case.

Arment notes that Apple offers between 5,000 and 5,500 WWDC tickets every year — depending on who you ask. While the majority of those are sold, some are allocated to press, VIP guests, partner companies, and student scholarships.

Arment estimates that only 4,500 tickets are actually made available to paying developers. But it seems not all of those were sold when WWDC tickets were made available on April 25, because Apple has since been calling developers to offer them a place at the event.

“After this year’s unexpectedly rapid, effectively random, and error-filled sellout, we started hearing about people getting calls from Apple offering them tickets,” Arment writes. “Most of these were people who successfully added the ticket to their cart during those 71 seconds, but weren’t able to complete the checkout due to server errors.”

Arment claims that Apple has made a lot of these phone calls; he’s seen at least a hundred people who were offered a WWDC ticket after they sold out, and he estimates the actual number of developers who have been invited by Apple is likely around the 500 mark.

“I don’t think I’ve heard from anyone who had a ticket added to their failed cart and didn’tget a phone call from Apple within a week of the sellout. That’s a lot of extra tickets to be selling,” he writes.

“And that’s not all. Apple has since called many people who reached out to developer-relations contacts, offering them tickets as well.”

Arment believes that there are two explanations for this. The first is that Apple has simply made more tickets available following the quick sell-out. If that’s the case, WWDC will be even busier this year than it has been in previous years.

The second explanation — the one Arment feels is more likely — is that Apple didn’t actually sell out of WWDC tickets at all. Instead, its servers couldn’t cope with the demand they received when tickets went on sale and they inaccurately reported they were sold out when they were not.

“My best guess: some part of the infrastructure handling the purchases mistook 4,500 connections, transactions, or sessions for 4,500 sales,” Arment says.

“And when the front-end servers collapsed under the load of everyone hitting them at once — a first this year, since the availability time was preannounced — we all started refreshing, those connections started stacking up, and something on the back-end triggered the “Sold Out” state early because it was mistakenly counting all of those failed sessions.”

So, maybe Apple didn’t sell all 4,500 WWDC tickets on April 25. Maybe it sold a lot less than that because of server issues. That would certainly explain why the company has chosen not to boast about how quickly the event sold out.

But why didn’t Apple just put the remaining tickets back on sale?

Arment suggests it was much easier for the company to call selected developers and offer them a place than go through the hassle of scheduling another sale — and risk the same server problems a second time — or letting WWDC go ahead with far fewer attendees.

We can’t be sure how many WWDC tickets Apple really sold on April 25, and why it has made more available since then. But Arment’s theory certainly seems to add up from where I’m sitting.

  • rogifan

    This is so stupid. Who cares whether there were 5,000 credit cards charged or whatever in 2 minutes. Fact is they have record of at least that many people attempting to. Hence why the server crash and failed sessions. One can argue whether they should have put up “sold out” so quickly but as long as people who tried to get a ticket and failed are getting one who cares. Sounds more like whining software developers who just want to bitch about something.

  • bdkennedy

    How is this a cover up? It’s all been out in the open since the day after the tickets were on sale.

  • Whodakat

    Marco Arment is an idiot. There are roughly 7 billion people on the planet. How could he possibly know what he is clearly guessing at? Um, I think I’ve heard from 100 people so I’m going to call it 500. And even at 500 its not that big of a deal. I’m sure Apple has 10% to do as they please with. If you are going to make things up, make up interesting things.

  • robraden

    This is stupid. It’s pretty much a standard practice to hold back some tickets to any event, Apple or otherwise. Selling out means selling out of all tickets made available for sale. Sheesh.

  • Moebius

    It took you a month to figure this out? I was one of the developers who was called on the 25th after my purchase failed and I reasoned this out then. There were two other developers I know in my area that went through the same thing. It wasn’t hard to piece together, all you had to do was ask.

  • gettysburg11s

    This a silly article. The house will still be packed for the keynote. End of story.

  • technochick

    It wasn’t apple it was the credit card systems. Which is why it failed at payment and why Apple called to complete payments.

    As Marco said, there are no reports of anyone getting a call that didn’t have a ticket in cart but couldn’t complete payment. That is hardly the same as without tickets to give them away to ‘friends’.

  • technochick

    It took you a month to figure this out? I was one of the developers who was called on the 25th after my purchase failed and I reasoned this out then. There were two other developers I know in my area that went through the same thing. It wasn’t hard to piece together, all you had to do was ask.

    The article is trying, and failing, to imply that Apple was calling select companies that didn’t get in before sales closed at all to offered them tickets. So like not only did they remove the scholarship tickets from the count but say removed 200 or so more to give extras to fav companies against the published rules or other stunts.

About the author

Killian BellKillian Bell is a staff writer based in the U.K. He has an interest in all things tech and also covers Android over at CultofAndroid.com. You can follow him on Twitter via @killianbell.

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