Artificial Intelligence

Why is it that the internet keeps falling down?

Following nearly six hours of Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram being unavailable, the Facebook creator and CEO commented, "Sorry for the interruption today."

However, if he did, it would take him almost 145 days to go through the avalanche of comments left for him after he apologized for the service outage last week.

Following nearly six hours of Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram being unavailable, the Facebook creator and CEO commented, “Sorry for the interruption today.”

Facebook said the outage was caused by a normal maintenance command that mistakenly unplugged Facebook data centers from the rest of the internet.

Mr. Zuckerberg’s apology received a total of 827,000 responses.

The messages varied from the amusing: “It was horrible, I had to chat to my family,” said one Italian user, to the perplexing: “It was terrible, I had to talk to my family,” said another. Someone from Namibia wrote, “I took my phone into the repair shop assuming it was broken.”

“You can’t have everything shut down at the same time,” says the very disturbed and outraged. One Nigerian businessman wrote, “The impact is unprecedented.” Another Indian company requested compensation for the disturbance to its operations.
If it wasn’t clear before, billions of people have become dependant on these services — not simply for entertainment, but also for crucial communication and business.

A WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram app is shown on a smartphone in this illustration.
To stay in touch with clients, many businesses now rely significantly on Facebook services like WhatsApp and Instagram.
What’s evident is that this isn’t a one-time occurrence: experts believe that widespread outages are becoming more common and disruptive.

“We’ve observed a growing reliance on a limited number of networks and firms to deliver huge chunks of Internet content in the previous several years,” says Luke Deryckx, Chief Technical Officer at Down Detector.

“When one of those, or a combination of them, has a problem, it affects hundreds of thousands of other services,” he explains. For example, Facebook is now used to sign in to a variety of services and devices, including smart televisions.

“And so, you know, we have these internet’snow days’ now,” Mr Deryckx continues. “Something happens, and we all glance at each other, as if to say, ‘Well, what are we going to do?'”

Mr. Deryckx and his Down Detector team keep an eye on web services and websites for any disruptions. Widespread disruptions affecting important services, he claims, are becoming more common and catastrophic.

“When Facebook has an issue, it has a huge influence not only on the internet, but also on the economy and…society.” Millions, if not hundreds of millions, of people are merely waiting for a small group of people in California to solve things. It’s a fascinating phenomenon that has exploded in popularity in recent years.”

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Large-scale meltdowns
October 2021: For over 6 hours, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were unavailable due to a “configuration problem.” Other sites, such as Twitter, were also affected by the influx of new visitors to their apps.
July 2021: A glitch with the Domain Name System (DNS) at content delivery company Akamai knocked out over 48 services, including Airbnb, Expedia, Home Depot, and Salesforce, for around an hour. It comes on the heels of a similar outage at the corporation a month ago.
June 2021: A previously undiscovered flaw was accidently triggered by a customer at cloud computing service provider Fastly, causing Amazon, Reddit, Twitch, Github, Shopify, Spotify, and other news sites to go down for around an hour.
Gmail, YouTube, Google Drive, and other Google services fell down for about 90 minutes in December 2020 after the firm reported it had a “internal storage quota issue.”
November 2020: For many hours, a technical issue with one of Amazon Web Service’s Virginia facilities impacted thousands of third-party web services, particularly in North America.
After a “server configuration update” in March 2019, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp all fell down or were severely interrupted for roughly 14 hours. Other sites that use Facebook for logins, such as Tinder and Spotify, were also affected.
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During a big outage of services, people are inevitably concerned that the disruption is the consequence of a cyber-attack.

Experts say it’s more often than not due to a more basic issue of human mistake, which is exacerbated by the way the internet is held together by a complicated collection of antiquated and fussy technologies, according to them.

During the Facebook outage, experts quipped on Twitter that some of the traditional suspects for outage problems are “older than the Spice Girls” and “designed on the back of a napkin.”

“The internet isn’t the large-scale dispersed network that DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the original builders of the internet, tried to establish, which could withstand a nuclear-strike on any portion of it,” says internet scientist Professor Bill Buchanan.

“The protocols it employs are essentially the same as those we used to connect to mainframe systems via dumb terminals.” “A single flaw in its underlying architecture can send the entire system crashing down.”

Professor Buchanan believes that while the internet may be made more resilient, many of the basics of the internet are here to stay, for better or worse.

“In general, the systems work, and you can’t just turn certain internet protocols ‘off’ for a day and expect them to be rebuilt,” he says.

The concept of a global communication network.
Internet services, according to experts, have become excessively centralized.
Professor Buchanan believes that rather than attempting to rebuild the internet’s protocols and structure, we should focus on improving the way we store and distribute data, or risk more widespread disruptions in the future.
He claims that the internet has become overly centralized, with too much information coming from a single source. He says that this trend needs to be reversed in systems with several nodes so that no single failure can prevent a service from functioning.

There is a silver lining to this situation. Although major internet outages have a negative impact on users’ lives and businesses, they can ultimately contribute to strengthen the internet’s and web services’ resilience.

According to Forbes, Facebook lost $66 million (£48.5 million) due to the suspension, or evacuation, of advertisers during the six-hour outage. Senior executives are likely to be focused on preventing similar losses in the future.

According to Mr Deryckx, “they lost a large amount of money on that day, not just in their stock price but in their operational revenues.” “If you look at outages caused by content delivery networks like Fastly and Cloudflare, you’ll see that they’ve also lost a lot of customers to the competition.” As a result, I believe these companies are doing everything possible to keep things online.”


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