Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram suffer a global outage: Everything you need to know
Facebook’s network of apps consisting of – Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp – suffered a major global outage on Wednesday. Users across the globe, particularly those living in Europe, South America and North America, reported that they were unable to access media files – images, videos, GIFs – on Facebook’s services. WhatsApp services in India were affected too.
While, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram suffered were in the services that took a major hit during the outage, in some cases, users across the globe reported similar issues Facebook Messenger as well. At the same time, Twitter too reported issues with delivery of Direct Messages, slowing the pace of the ever bustling social media highway.
However, this is not the first time that Facebook’s family of apps have suffered a global outage. The social media giant’s services – particularly Facebook and Instagram — suffered one of the worst outages ever back in March this year. The two services remained disrupted for most parts of the world for a period of over 14 hours at the time with users reporting that they were unable to refresh their Instagram feed or Facebook news feed or able to post anything on the two services.
With Facebook’s user base inflating steadily and these outages happening frequently than ever before, one cannot help but wonder what leads to these occurrences. So, here is explainer that will help you understand the details of the company’s recent outage:
So, what exactly happened?
As I mentioned before, issues pertaining to Facebook’s family of apps lead to the users being able to load or download media files particularly images and videos. In some cases users were also able to send media files and other files using the company’s apps. The outage mostly affected Europe and parts of America. However, some WhatsApp users in India reported issues with loading media files as well.
According to Downdetector, over 14,000 users reported issues with Instagram, while more than 7,500 and 1,600 users reported issues with Facebook and WhatsApp respectively. The issues on the three platforms started at around 7:30PM on July 3 following which both Instagram and Facebook acknowledged on their Twitter page.
The issue was resolved at around 5:30AM in the morning on July 4. Facebook confirmed this via a tweet from its official page.
What caused the issue?
Facebook, coupled with its family of apps, own the biggest share of the social media pie in the market. Owing to the number of people it caters to and the spread of its services geographies, it conducts its business – which includes providing services to its users and storing their data – from data centres located across the globe. These data centres are protected by layers of encryption and are routinely upgraded and updated to ensure that Facebook’s services remain sure and they work flawlessly. The recent outage was an outcome of this routine maintenance operation.
“During one of our routine maintenance operations, we triggered an issue that is making it difficult for some people to upload or send photos and videos,” Facebook said in a statement, as reported by Reuters.
ThousandEyes, which is global internet traffic monitoring company, in a statement to the news agency said, “The disruption appears to be related to an internal infrastructure or application issue.”
Why are these issues becoming so frequent?
Developments in Internet Communication Technologies (ICTs) are happening at a rapid pace. This means that companies are upgrading their systems fast in a bid to provide new features and functionalities to their users across the globe. These updates are rolled out via updates to the network of data centres where these companies host their data. Besides providing new functions, these companies are also upgrading their systems in a bid to protect them against potential threats.
We have already seen how much loss hackers can cause to a city by taking charge of their network. Imagine what would happen if they could benefit from system vulnerabilities that would give them access to data of an entire geographical region.
While companies usually don’t roll out changes to their systems across geographies all at once, however with their user base ever inflating, these issues, when they happen, would affect a wider user base than ever before.
Is there anything else you should know about the recent outage?
The recent outage besides causing…well…’digital discomfort’ to users also revealed a key detail about the way Facebook work. The recent outage revealed how Facebook’s AI judges people in their photos or in simpler words how the company’s AI reads the photos.
For reference, if there is an image of yours on Facebook where you are standing near a tree, Facebook’s AI would read it as: one or more people standing, tree, outdoor and nature. In short, the AI reduces your image or the memory that you are trying to capture in a bunch of tags.
Images, as The Verge noted, contain a lot of personal data that gives away swathes of information that they might try to hide from Facebook. Tagging the images, hence, helps the social media giant decode a lot of that. However, it remains uncertain if Facebook uses these tags for targeting ads to its users. While Facebook hasn’t commented on the matter yet, but the creepy Facebook tags sure did Fascinated a lot of users who shared screenshots of their Facebook profiles on Twitter.