Artificial Intelligence

What happened to Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp?

It was as if "someone removed all the cables from their data centers at once and severed them from the internet," according to Cloudflare, a web infrastructure company.

Facebook has apologized after it went down for many hours on Monday for users all across the world.

WhatsApp and Instagram, which the firm owns, were also unavailable.

What exactly was the issue?
In a word, Facebook’s systems have stopped communicating with the rest of the internet.

It was as if “someone removed all the cables from their data centers at once and severed them from the internet,” according to Cloudflare, a web infrastructure company.

The explanation from Facebook was a little more technical.

“Configuration updates on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centers caused issues that disrupted this communication,” the company explained. This had a “cascading effect… halting our services.”

So, why were people unable to access Facebook?
Hundreds of thousands of networks make up the internet. Large corporations, like as Facebook, have their own larger networks, which are referred to as autonomous systems.

When you go to Facebook (or Instagram, or WhatsApp), the back-end technology that allows computers to connect to their network employs the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), which is a type of internet postal service.

BGP examines all of the possible paths that data could take in order to lead users to the websites they wish to visit and chooses the best one.

On Monday, Facebook abruptly ceased delivering the data required for the system to work.

It meant that no one’s PCs could connect to Facebook or its other sites.

What was the impact of the outage?
The failure of such important online giants had repercussions for individuals and businesses all around the world.

According to Downdetector, a company that tracks outages, 10.6 million difficulties were reported around the world – the most ever recorded.

For many people, losing access to Facebook’s services was merely a nuisance. However, for certain small enterprises in underdeveloped countries with no other dependable means of communicating with clients, this may have been a severe issue.

Similarly, several organizations that have employees who are still working remotely due to the pandemic now use WhatsApp to communicate with one another.

How could this have happened?
Around 16:45 BST on Monday, there was a flurry of claims that Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were down.

At first, this prompted the typical jokes about how people would cope, as well as jibes from competitors like Twitter.

With tales of mayhem at Facebook’s California headquarters, it became evident that this was a more severe situation.

Part of the reason it took so long to solve, according to Sheera Frenkel, a tech reporter for the New York Times, was because “the folks trying to figure out what this problem was couldn’t even physically get into the building” to figure out what went wrong.

We don’t know if the problem was caused by a software bug or by human mistake.

However, conspiracy theories are already circulating, with one example being purposeful foul play by a Facebook insider.

What has Facebook’s response been?
Facebook’s apology was shared on Twitter, which was very awkward.

Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger are now operational again. I apologize for the inconvenience today; I understand how much you rely on our services to keep in touch with the people you care about.

Mark Zuckerberg posted this on Monday, October 4, 2021.

External sites are not under the control of the BBC.

See the original Facebook post here.
According to Mike Proulx, an analyst with Forrester Research, the incident raises concerns about Facebook’s recent consolidation of its technological divisions.

He claims that it increased their efficiency, but it also means that if one thing goes wrong, it can cause “a cascade effect, similar to old-school Christmas lights where if one goes out, they all go out.”

Facebook has had outages in the past, but they were usually resolved within an hour or two.

A longer and more disruptive blackout, such as this one, highlights the dilemma of Silicon Valley controlling so much of the world’s communications.

This raises the question of whether the internet’s operation should be in the hands of a few large corporations.

What is the total amount of money that Facebook has lost?
The impact on Facebook’s revenue and stock price is likely to be the most significant issue for the company. Because of the shutdown, ads were not provided for more than six hours across all of its platforms.

According to some estimates, the downtime might have cost Mr Zuckerberg as much as $6 billion (£4.4 billion), with Facebook’s stock plunging nearly 5%.

Others anticipate that the corporation will lose more than $60 million in revenue.

And the damage to Facebook’s brand comes at a bad time for the company.

Today, a US Senate hearing features a whistle-blower who is accused of releasing numerous internal documents.

It’s also under fire from authorities throughout the world, who are questioning whether it’s responding effectively to concerns like misinformation, hate speech, and data handling, or whether it’s prioritizing “growth over safety,” as the whistleblower claims.

Its technical abilities are now being questioned as well.


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