It is only Tuesday, but this has already been one of the most eventful weeks of the year for Facebook. Hours after whistleblower Frances Haugen appeared on 60 Minutes to divulge evidence of Facebook’s penchant for choosing “profit over safety,” Facebook went offline. In fact, for much of Monday, there was an outage affecting all of Facebook’s properties. That includes Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp. For hours, users couldn’t access their accounts on any of Facebook’s sites or apps. Now, a day later, Facebook has finally explained the October 4th outage.
Facebook explains the October 4th outage
Facebook’s VP of Engineering and Infrastructure, Santosh Janardhan, shared an update regarding the outage on Monday night. Janardhan says Facebook’s engineers found that “configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between [the social media brand’s] data centers caused issues that interrupted this communication.”
“This disruption to network traffic had a cascading effect on the way our data centers communicate, bringing our services to a halt,” the VP explained. He then emphasized that the company believes the configuration change is to blame for the outage. Unsurprisingly, Facebook wants to get out in front of any rumors about hacks or internal sabotage. Furthermore, the company does not have any evidence that user data was compromised during the extended outage.
Finally, Janardhan ended his update with an apology and a promise to do better in the future:
People and businesses around the world rely on us everyday to stay connected. We understand the impact outages like these have on people’s lives, and our responsibility to keep people informed about disruptions to our services. We apologize to all those affected, and we’re working to understand more about what happened today so we can continue to make our infrastructure more resilient.
What is the fallout of the Facebook outage?
For many in the US, the October 4th Facebook outage was little more than an annoying inconvenience. For a few hours, no one could tap through Instagram Stories or bug their friends on Messenger. But around the world, the loss of WhatsApp was a genuine catastrophe. The instant messaging service acquired by Facebook in 2014 is the primary means of communication throughout much of the world. Over 2 billion people use WhatsApp to stay in touch with their families, friends, and coworkers. WhatsApp is vital global infrastructure, and the fact that it can go offline in an instant due to a single mistake is terrifying. Facebook will have to do better than a four-paragraph blog post.