Facebook, Instagram & WhatsApp down: Why you couldn’t use them?

Oct 7th '21

On Monday, the 4th of October, Facebook experienced its longest and worst outage since 2008, with all of its services down for around six hours. The outage affected 3 billion users and stopped their access to the most used apps worldwide, such as WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger.


Probably, the biggest issue for Facebook itself was the effect it had on its revenue and stock price. Facebook stock fell by as much as 5% in just a few hours, which caused $6 billion losses for Mark Zuckerberg personal wealth. The last five days, Facebook has seen a drop of 7.74% of its stock on Wall Street and 13% drop in the last month.


Why couldn’t you use Facebook’s apps?

Facebook’s biggest outage in history was caused by a wrong command that resulted in what the company said was “an error of our own making”. The vice president of engineering and infrastructure, Santosh Janardhan, shared information in a post on the outage and the reason behind it. In his post he explained why it took several hours to fix the issue and the difficulties that the engineers had to face to reactivate the services.


The post by Janardhan said: “We’ve done extensive work hardening our systems to prevent unauthorised access, and it was interesting to see how that hardening slowed us down as we tried to recover from an outage caused not by malicious activity, but an error of our own making”. According to the vice president, the main reason for the problem was a wrong command during routine maintenance work.


In order to fix the outage, Facebook’s engineers had to physically access data centres that form the “global backbone network”. “The backbone is the network Facebook has built to connect all our computing facilities together, which consists of tens of thousands of miles of fibre-optic cables crossing the globe and linking all our data centres” the post also explained.


To effectively manage these centres, engineers have to perform daily infrastructure maintenance, which includes taking part of the “backbone” offline, adding more capacity or updating software on routers that manage all the data traffic.


“During one of these routine maintenance jobs, a command was issued with the intention to assess the availability of global backbone capacity, which unintentionally took down all the connections in our backbone network, effectively disconnecting Facebook data centres globally” he added in his post. Once the outage was fixed, the challenge Facebook had to face was to manage the huge traffic that would come as a result of opening the apps to the users again.


What effect did the outage have?

During the outage, 10.6 million problems were reported around the world, which is the largest number ever recorded. The unavailability of Facebook’s services caused disturbance in the work of many individuals and businesses, which rely on social media to run or promote their business. Furthermore, for organisations that still work remotely due to the pandemic, employees using WhatsApp were unable to connect and people were unable to communicate with each other.


Telegram gained 70 million new users 

In just six hours, the messaging app Telegram added 70 million users. The inability of Facebook’s 3.5 billion users to use its messaging apps like Messenger and WhatsApp, encouraged more people to join Telegram and be able to connect with their friends and families again.


The founder and CEO of Telegram, Pavel Durov, said: “I am proud of how our team handled the unprecedented growth because Telegram continued to work flawlessly for the vast majority of our users”. Earlier this year, the company announced that they have reached 500 million monthly users. The app is clearly gaining traction and popularity among the messaging apps and could be now seen as a rising competitor of WhatsApp, which has around 2 billion monthly users, according to Statista.


Author: Chole Davis @ Papernest


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