About six hours without Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram: An unusually long total outage hit billions of online network users worldwide on Monday. Facebook explained the malfunction by changing the incorrect configuration. As a result, data traffic between data centers has collapsed. Facebook indicated that internal systems were affected as well – which took longer to diagnose and fix the problem.
The malfunction was so difficult to control that, according to the New York Times, Facebook had to send a team to its data center in Santa Clara, California to attempt a “manual reset” of the servers. It’s a bit like hitting the reset button on a PC because nothing works.
The company’s statement is consistent with the assumptions made by experts who have assumed a fault in the network infrastructure. “Put simply put: Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram are still there — but there is almost no link to them on the internet,” explained Rüdiger Trost of IT security firm F-Secure. “As if someone had removed the exit signs to Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook places on the highway.”
A total of about 3.5 billion people around the world use at least one mass service. Facebook founder and group leader Mark Zuckerberg apologized in a short post to users. WhatsApp President Will Cathcart promised that one would learn from him.
The New York Times writes that in addition to Facebook’s own internal communications platform, office digital door locks and other network-connected technologies have also failed. Two unnamed IT security experts from Facebook told the newspaper that a cyber attack was unlikely to trigger it. The online network has officially stated that there is no evidence that user data has been affected either.
The Facebook services can no longer be used from around 6:00 PM CEST. John Graham-Cumming, chief technology officer for cloud services provider Cloudflare, noted that users and software are still trying to control Facebook’s services. He wrote on Twitter that this ensured a sharp increase in the use of other purported DNS services.
Just because of the discussion about the failure, the Twitter watch struck – and the competitor on Facebook knew about it. “Hello everyone, literally,” the SMS service’s official account tweeted, as countless Facebook users wandered for hours.
For Facebook, which is currently under political pressure in the US, the failure of several hours was an embarrassing culmination of already difficult weeks. Only on Sunday, former employee Frances Haugen identified herself as a whistleblower and accused the Internet of putting profit above users’ welfare. On Tuesday, Haugen testified at a US Senate subcommittee on protecting young users.
Twitter was full of jokes on Monday about how the disappearance of Facebook improved everything in one fell swoop, including world peace. “I hope Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp will never work again,” tweeted satirist Jan Boehmermann. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden took the opportunity to recommend the Signal chat app as an alternative that offers more privacy than WhatsApp.
Defects that can be traced back to network errors happen again and again on the web. In July, for example, one of these sites ensured that several websites were temporarily unavailable. The centralization of network infrastructure at large providers also ensures that corporate failure can knock many services and websites off the network.
At the beginning of June, many websites around the world were still inaccessible for about an hour after the cloud service went down. At the time, the British government, the Reddit platform, and the news portals of The Guardians, New York Times, Financial Times and France’s Le Monde newspaper were affected.
There was a widespread failure at Facebook in the spring of 2019, which, according to the company, was due to a server configuration error. However, Monday’s disruption was unusual in scope and duration. One question is whether the blackout will cause Facebook advertisers to consider alternatives. Because many small businesses around the world rely on Facebook to attract customers. For them, the turmoil meant losing business.
The Facebook post closed at about negative five percent. Even after that, the company was still valued at around $920 billion on the stock exchange. Zuckerberg’s personal fortune, according to Bloomberg Financial Service calculations, shrunk in a few hours by more than six billion dollars. After the turmoil resolved, Facebook’s stock prices rose 0.39 percent in the post-close trading period.
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