Science

Facebook Outage – What Happened?

On Monday 4 October, social media sites Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram went down for around six hours, leaving an estimated 3.5 billion users unable to access the platforms. Source: www.thoughtcatalog.com (via Flickr)

By Anna Thomas | Contributor

Mark Zuckerberg has apologised to users following disruption to multiple social media platforms in the worst Facebook outage since 2008. 

On Monday 4 October, social media sites Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram went down for around six hours, leaving an estimated 3.5 billion users unable to access the platforms. 

Following the blackout, Facebook issued a statement claiming that routine maintenance of the ‘backbone’ of the company’s networks interrupted the connection to servers, effectively disconnecting Facebook’s data centres from the rest of the world. 

A blog post from Cloudflare explained that there are two key aspects which organise the structure of the internet: Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) and Domain Name Systems (DNS). Whilst the DNS provides the location of the website you want to visit, the BGP provides the best route to get there. During Monday’s outage a command issued by Facebook engineers disrupted the BGP. Therefore, whilst Facebook’s pages still existed, there was no route which users could take to access these sites. 

Facebook issued a further statement saying, “this outage also impacted many of the internal tools and systems [they] use in [their] day-to-day operations”. In short, Facebook rely on their own platform for vast amounts of their internal employee coordination. Not only were staff left unable to access their internal communication channels in order to synchronise a response, some were also physically locked out of their office buildings as the key cards were rendered obsolete in the outage. 

To date, no official explanation of how the issues were resolved has been released by the company, but The Guardian reported that it is thought that technical teams were sent to the California servers to do a manual reset in a bid to bring the site back online. Apparently even tech giants must resort to ‘turning it off and on again’ to resolve technological mishaps! 

The timing couldn’t have been worse for Facebook as it immediately succeeded whilstleblower Frances Haugen’s divisive senate address on 3 October. She cited a litany of incidences where Facebook has caused harm to the public claiming that they “won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people.” The outage, in conjunction with Haugen’s claims, has sent the company into financial free fall with shares plummeting in value overnight. It has been estimated that CEO Mark Zuckerberg lost $6 billion in personal wealth following the crash. 

Services were reinstated at around 10pm GMT on Monday and the CEO issued the following apology to all those impacted in previous hours: “Sorry for the disruption today — I know how much you rely on our services to stay connected with the people you care about.”.

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