I've been attending Macworld Expos regularly since about 1991 or so, first as a civilian, then as a booth worker, and, for the past decade or so, as a journalist. I've seen the show evolve and change a lot over the years.
Before the ascendancy of the Internet as a commerce vehicle, Macworld Expo was largely a flea market; a bazaar where vendors would go to hawk their wares, where people would come to get discounts on products that they had only read about in magazines.
There were grand parties and after-hours events where liquor poured freely and people rubbed shoulders, Mac glitterati and civilians alike.
At that time, Macworld Expo was very similar to other computer shows of the era. It was an event populated by hobbyists who shared a common interest around the Macintosh. It was there that the identity of Mac users as a cult or a subculture first developed.
That hasn't been what Macworld Expo has been about for years, however. Some time ago IDG World Expo changed the name of the event to Macworld Conference & Expo, to reflect the changing reality.
If all you've been doing to attend Macworld Expo is spending $15 on an Exhibit Hall badge, quite frankly, you haven't been getting very much out of the show. It's the users who attend the show's conference tracks who have been getting their money's worth.
As a professional development event, Macworld Expo has done phenomenally well. I've spoken to many, many people over the years that come away from Macworld Expo with their heads bursting at the seams with great ideas and inspiration and new knowledge to take back home with them.
Macworld Expo has also served as a springboard for countless third parties to introduce new products for the Mac, iPhone and iPod over the years.
Companies with limited marketing budgets are always hungry to capitalize on an opportunity to build awareness for their products, and many use Macworld Expo - especially that Tuesday, when Apple has introduced new products at the keynote - to do it.
I have no question that such efforts will be diminished from here on out in the wake of Apple's decision to pull out of the show after the 2009 event.