October 4, 2021, was a day to think about Facebook’s impact on our lives: a configuration change brought down the entire family of the company’s apps, including WhatsApp and Instagram, which add up to more than 3 billion users. But Mark Zuckerberg’s company is so big that the downtime hasn’t only affected one or the other service you love to hate: the structure of the internet (and the world) has also been shaken.
More than two hours after the first reports of a downtime yesterday, all Facebook services were off the air, which ironically includes the status.fb.com page, created to inform you when there is a technical problem on the social network. For major DNS services such as Cloudflare, Google, and OpenDNS, the domain facebook.com simply… ceased to exist.
The Internet is a network, and it has consequences
As soon as Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram went off the air, around 12:50 pm on Monday (4), DownDetector identified a spike in reports of instability in other services, such as Telegram, and Gmail. The behaviour was similar in other countries: AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, for example, following the same curve in the United States. What do these companies have to do with Facebook?
Some dependencies are more visible, such as the login button via Facebook, which uses social network authentication technology: some people had nothing to do with the problem and got locked out of a music service or delivery app. On one of the times this essential Facebook service failed, even Tinder stopped working right.
Other services are affected indirectly: whenever WhatsApp crashes, a horde of new users will get to know Telegram, which has left the messaging app unstable due to the sudden increase in traffic. The same happened with Twitter, whose market value, $46 billion, is less than the amount of Facebook’s stock fall on the stock exchange today alone.
The DNS overload problem?
But how to explain the reports of carrier swells? One part, of course, is due to the wrong attribution of guilt: WhatsApp is so ubiquitous to so many people that when the app crashes, it seems that the internet has just stopped working. But Cloudflare’s CTO, John Graham-Cumming, shows how the entire internet is affected by Facebook’s immensity:
In other words, the downtime of a Service the size of Facebook generates a ripple effect across the internet. And if Cloudflare, a company that specializes in network reliability, needs to sweat to keep everything running during the Facebook swindling, imagine what happens to your carrier’s DNS, which often experiences downtime for no apparent reason. If the DNS server you use stops responding, almost everything that depends on the internet also stops working right.
As a company of 3 billion users, the impact of downtime from Facebook and Instagram is immediate across the internet. But WhatsApp is what amplifies the damage to the physical world, after all, many merchants sell through the messaging app. Banking services are also tightly integrated into the Facebook app.
In fact, legend has it that even the federal governments of certain countries out there depend on WhatsApp.
A source tells journalist Philip Crowther that Facebook’s internal systems were also down, and communication was being made by text and email messages. Journalist Sheera Frenkel points out that employees were unable to enter the offices, as access badges consult a server that is also inaccessible.
More News on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp Outage
Facebook has officially commented on the reason for the downtime blaming it on configuration changes made to routers that coordinate network traffic between its data centers: “This disruption to network traffic had a cascading effect on the way our data centers communicate, bringing our services to a halt,” Facebook said.
In other news, the witness (Frances Haugen) who smuggled tens of thousands of documents out of Facebook is testifying to the Senate at 10 a.m. today.
In the meantime, you can read the special article Whistleblower: Facebook chose profit over public safety or With Facebook downtime, Mark Zuckerberg loses $7 billion in 3 hours.