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Facebook, Instagram & Whatsapp outage drives ‘literally everyone’ to Twitter Monday

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Millions of social media users across the globe are unable to access Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp Monday.  The outage tracking site Down Detector indicates that the bulk of outage reports began just after 10 a.m. CST and, as of 1:45 p.m. the issue persists.

Spokespersons for the companies have made apologetic statements to various news outlets and through other social media channels, such as Twitter, assuring users that they are working toward a resolution.

It is unclear exactly what caused the outage or when services might be restored.

The Facebook blackout might be cramping your style today, but Twitter seems to be having a great time as millions of users turn to Twitter in the absence of their biggest competitors.

The three Facebook-owned platforms run on a shared infrastructure, so a widespread outage across all three platforms is unfortunate, but logical. It makes sense.

Less apparent is the tech giant’s potential to impact apps and services that seem completely separate and unrelated, as illustrated last July when a bug in Facebook’s developers tools caused Spotify’s iPhone app to crash.

“Because Facebook provides services that are central to much of the internet – even sites that do not appear to have anything to do with it – outages like this can sometimes cause problems for other seemingly unrelated sites,” explains Andrew Griffin, technology editor and science reporter at The Independent.

Tweets by a chief technology officer at Cloudflare, a global leader in networking, web performance and security, illustrate the outage’s indirect but substantial impact on his company’s network. The Facebook portfolio’s outage is causing a ‘massive flood of DNS traffic asking for facebook.com’.

Cloudflare, home to around 25 million websites, has actioned teams to manage the impact and ensure that their systems continue to operate smoothly in spite of the surge.

“Good reminder that the internet is a network of networks that works through standards and cooperation,” he concluded.  Say that five times fast.

On the surface, what is happening is your browser is trying ask for the address for the page you want to load, but Facebook’s DNS is not answering the request so the buck stops there.

However, it’s unlikely that DNS resolution would fail on its own, and even less likely that any scenario of possible issues at the DNS level would take entire teams of professional developers hours to resolve.  Almost certainly, there an underlying issue somewhere in the infrastructure that operates Facebook’s applications at the root of the outage, and the DNS errors experienced by your web browser are a side effect of that root cause, whatever it may be.

Historically, Facebook has refrained from disclosing any details around issues on their platforms, even after they are fixed or cause major outages and scores of angry users. Exposing weaknesses in the Facebook systems is likely to be frowned upon for security reasons, so we will may never know exactly what happened.

 

 

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