SAN FRANCISCO – Facebook and its family of apps, including Instagram and WhatsApp, went together on Monday at the same time, making a major communication platform used by more than three billion people around the world and heating up a company that’s already intense is checked, even more.
Facebook’s apps – which include Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Oculus – started displaying error messages around 11:40 a.m. Eastern Time, users reported. Within five minutes, Facebook was gone from the Internet. Hours later, the sites were still not working, according to Downdetector, who is monitoring web traffic and site activity.
Technology failures are not uncommon, but it was very unusual for so many apps from the world’s largest social media company to go dark at the same time. Facebook’s last major outage was in 2019 when a technical glitch impacted its websites for 24 hours to remind people that even the most powerful internet companies can still be crippled by a Snafu.
This time the cause of the failure remained unclear. Several hours after the incident, Facebook security experts were still trying to identify the root problem, according to an internal memo, and staff were briefed on the matter. Two members of the security team, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to speak publicly, said it was unlikely that a cyberattack occurred as a hack is unlikely to affect as many apps at the same time.
Security experts said the problem was most likely due to a misconfiguration of Facebook’s server computers that didn’t allow people to connect to its websites like Instagram and WhatsApp. When such errors occur, companies often roll back to their previous configuration, but Facebook’s issues seemed more complex and required some manual updates.
Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesperson, posted on twitter, “We understand that some users are having problems accessing our apps and products. We are working to get things back to normal as soon as possible and we apologize for any inconvenience. “
The outage caused outrage and exhilaration online as Facebook and Instagram users turned to Twitter to complain and ridicule their inability to use the apps. The hashtag #facebookdown also quickly became trendy.
But the outage has been a blow to small businesses and others who rely on the platform for outreach and promotion, as well as millions who use Facebook and its apps to communicate with friends and family around the world.
Players who live stream their game on Facebook Gaming and are paid by viewers and subscribers said Monday they were trying to find alternatives.
“You definitely feel out of place, and it’s scary too,” said Douglas Veney, a Cleveland gamer known from GoodGameBro. He said he was hoping to post videos and other content for his followers on Facebook ahead of a scheduled live stream on Monday night. “I have 300,000 followers there – just keep your fingers crossed that nothing is gone when it comes back.”
Mr Veney, 33, also has a job outside of streaming, but said he knew about other streamers who lived from paycheck to paycheck and made the jump to other sites to keep making money.
“It’s hard when your primary income platform breaks down for a lot of people,” he said.
Employees on Facebook got confused because their internal systems were no longer working either. The company’s global security team “was informed of a system failure affecting all of Facebook’s internal systems and tools,” according to an internal memo sent to employees. These tools included security systems, an internal calendar, and planning tools, the memo says.
Employees said they had problems making calls from work-exhibited cell phones and receiving emails from people outside the company. Facebook’s internal communication platform Workplace was also discontinued, so that many could no longer carry out their work. Some turned to other platforms for communication, including LinkedIn and Zoom, and Discord chat rooms.
Some Facebook employees who are back to work in the office were also unable to enter buildings and conference rooms because their digital badges no longer worked. Safety engineers said they were prevented from evaluating the failure because they couldn’t get to the server areas.
Facebook’s global security headquarters found the failure “poses a HIGH risk to people, a MODERATE risk to assets and a HIGH risk to Facebook’s reputation,” the company announcement said.
According to an internal memo, a small team of employees was soon dispatched to Facebook’s data center in Santa Clara, California, to attempt a “manual reset” of the company’s servers.
Several Facebook employees described the failure as the equivalent of a “snow day”, a feeling that Adam Mosseri, the boss of Instagram, publicly repeated.
Facebook has already undergone intensive scrutiny. The company has been targeted by a whistleblower, Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager who has amassed thousands of pages of internal research and has since circulated it to the news media, lawmakers and regulators. The documents showed that Facebook knew of much of the harm its services were causing.
Ms. Haugen, who revealed her identity online and at “60 Minutes” on Sunday, is to testify in Congress on Tuesday about the effects of Facebook on young users.
In the early days of Facebook, there were occasional outages as millions of new users poured into the network. Over the years, the company has spent billions of dollars expanding its infrastructure and services, and building huge data centers in cities like Prineville, Oregon and Fort Worth, Texas.
In addition, the company has been trying for several years to integrate the underlying technical infrastructure of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram.
John Graham-Cumming, chief technology officer of Cloudflare, a web infrastructure company, said in an interview Monday that the problem was most likely a misconfiguration of Facebook’s servers.
Computers convert websites like facebook.com into numeric internal protocol addresses through a system that is compared to a phone’s address book. Facebook’s problem is removing people’s phone numbers under their names in their address book, making it impossible to call them, he said. Cloudflare provides some of the systems that support Facebook’s internet infrastructure.
“It was like Facebook was just saying, ‘Goodbye, we’re going now,'” said Graham-Cumming.
Ryan Mac, Nicole Perlroth and Ladles Browning Reporting contributed.