Some Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp services restored after 1 hour global outage

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Facebook Inc.’s services were disconnected for up to six hours Monday before some of them were restored, an extended outage that disrupted access for users and businesses around the world and left the tech company looking for a solution.

The company apologized for the failure, which affected its major platforms and apps, including WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger, and which, according to an external tracking company, appeared to be the most widespread in its history. Facebook said the problem was due to network issues. External experts said it appeared to stem from a change the company made to the networking guidelines for accessing its systems.

The disruption has hampered both essential and mundane communication, cut off small businesses from customers, and slowed down e-commerce in a myriad of countries. Some companies have seen their operations and revenues cut, while others have sent marketing arguments based on the obscuring of services, highlighting how much Facebook, despite the many controversies and challenges it faces, is at the center of it. everyday life all over the world.

Users started receiving error messages while trying to access Facebook platforms shortly before noon ET. The outage also caused widespread disruption to Facebook’s internal communications tools, including some voice calls and work apps used for calendar appointments and other functions, according to people familiar with the matter. Some staff were using Zoom to stay connected throughout the day, people said.

In a blog post Monday night, Facebook blamed the outage on a configuration error. The outage cut communications between Facebook’s data centers, leading to a cascade of disruptions as the servers were cut off from each other, Facebook said. Internal systems were also affected, making it difficult for the company’s engineers to diagnose and fix the problem, the company said. User data was not compromised, according to the company.

Instagram users were among those affected by the blackout on Monday.


Photo:

Richard B. Levine / Zuma Press

Facebook began restoring its networking services starting around 5:20 p.m. ET Monday, according to Internet company Fastly. About half an hour later, Facebook’s apps and sites started working again for some users, Fastly said. Because the outage was so severe, the return to full recovery was slow, Facebook said. The company did not specify the cause of the initial networking issues.

The outage appears to have been the largest in company history based on the number of users affected. It is the largest ever detected by Downdetector, which tracks website outages, with more than 10.6 million reports of problems worldwide, according to a spokesperson for Downdetector’s parent company.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologized. “I know how much you rely on our services to stay in touch with the people you care about,” he said in a Facebook post.

The blackout has affected businesses large and small that depend on Facebook in various ways.

Tricia Puleo, 52, who offers virtual Zumba classes to clients, said she was unable to reach clients because social media is the only way for them to find out about her virtual class times. .

“This is how I advertise,” she said. “It affects how many people I reach, how many people come to my classes and how much money I make.”

WhatsApp has become an essential communication tool for users around the world.


Photo:

Patrick Sison / Associate Press

Some companies have started trying to reach customers with suggestions or marketing depending on the outage. Mott & Bow, an online denim retailer, sent emails to some users announcing clothing sales, with the subject line: “Here’s a distraction while Instagram / Facebook is down.” Interactive Platoon Inc.

tweeted: “So while these apps are down, let us know what the mood you’re in and we’ll recommend a class to take tonight.”

Elizabeth Gore, co-founder and president of Hello Alice, a company that helps various small business owners, said using social media during the pandemic was a great way for small businesses to keep selling products during shutdowns. stores.

But she said the loss of communication created by Monday’s blackout was problematic for her and her customers. “I would consider this a natural disaster on social media,” she said.

Twitter was inundated Monday with comments, jokes and complaints from users of Facebook and its services. Hours after the outage began, Twitter wrote “Hello literally everyone” in a tweet on its official account. Twitter CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey also tweeted his support for rival messaging service Signal, amid more jokes. The company later acknowledged that the influx of traffic it received may have affected responses and direct messages for some time.

Cory Michael, a full-time video game streamer on Facebook, said he streamed while playing on a new Amazon.com Inc.

play for several hours on the platform when it fell. “I’m not the type to panic,” said Mr. Michael, 36, who lives in Florida. “People who watch live streams, they have their streamers that they love. I am sure they will come back.

While even the biggest tech companies sometimes go offline unexpectedly, the duration and widespread nature of the disruption for Facebook and all of its platforms is unusual, said Tom Daly, a networking expert who was previously the company’s co-founder. Internet Dyn. “They have a massive infrastructure with a tremendous amount of complexity and they have to solve all that complexity to recover,” he said.

And while Facebook and Instagram are widely used for social reasons, WhatsApp is an essential communication tool for users around the world. The service has over two billion active users.

According to Facebook’s quarterly financial results for July, the social media company said it has 1.19 billion daily active users.

The outage comes at a time of scrutiny for the social media company. On Sunday, a whistleblower who provided material for the Wall Street Journal’s Facebook Files series was released to the public. Frances Haugen, former product manager at Facebook, said she took action to help accelerate change at the business.

Facebook shares fell 4.9% on Monday amid a massive sell-off in the market.

Over the years, Facebook has built up a complex global system of data centers, software and networking equipment to keep its sprawling international network up and running, but Monday’s outage appears to have started with a problem at a particularly sensitive point. of this ecology. . Like all companies that operate networks, Facebook uses an obscure technology called Border Gateway Protocol, or BGP, to tell other network operators where to find its servers.

As of Monday, Facebook appeared to have removed this BGP information, meaning Facebook was no longer revealing the location of its own Domain Name System, or DNS, servers, which are used by browsers and cellphones to find Facebook on the Internet. . The change essentially meant that the company and its departments have done a dying act, when it comes to the world’s networking companies, outside experts said.

The change made Facebook’s DNS servers unavailable, forcing its services – Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram – offline, said Doug Madory, director of internet analytics at network monitoring firm Kentik.

As the world becomes more and more dependent on technologies provided by the Internet, disruption due to Internet failures has become commonplace.

Some Facebook services briefly went down in March, and the workplace messaging platform Slack Technologies Inc. suffered a service outage for several hours earlier this year. Last December, more than ten Alphabet Inc.

Google services, which include Gmail and YouTube, have also suffered disruption.

As many employees turned to cloud services and other connected platforms during the Covid-19 pandemic, the ripple effects of outages were felt more.

Write to Talal Ansari at [email protected] and Robert McMillan at [email protected]

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