It’s late afternoon on a blustery spring day on the waterfront at San Francisco’s Fort Mason, a former military base that’s now hired out for corporate functions. Vast warehouses, once used to store army supplies, are awash with sleek signs, shimmering lights and endless snacks. Behind them is an Instagram-ready view of Alcatraz island. In front, a fleet of Uber and Lyft cars lines up in the car park, while inside one of the warehouses Scottish synthpop band Chvrches take the stage.
For the first few songs there’s only a small group of hardcore vocal fans at the front of the stage, flanked by a subdued mix of backpack-wearing dad types politely bobbing their heads, drinking cocktails out of plastic cups.
The shindig has been put on by Facebook for the benefit of delegates attending its F8 conference. The event, which has run most years since 2007, began as a means to win over the developer community and has now become a comprehensive and highly engineered launchpad for the company’s annual plans. Many of the 2,600 attendees have paid $595 to find out how they can integrate their own digital products with Facebook to carve out some kind of presence among its enormous audience – and there’s booze and entertainment thrown in.