For the past few years, Facebook has not only been criticized but also sued for this or that improper behavior, ranging from privacy missteps to monopolistic business practices to harmful work cultures. There have been repeated calls to boycott Facebook and its properties Instagram and WhatsApp, and there has even been some mass exodus of users over the years. Despite all that negative publicity, Facebook still has a firm hold over people’s lives today, something that was confirmed by the hours-long outage that affected not just users but even businesses worldwide.
For almost six hours, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were down for the count, no matter what part of the world you were in. While not as long as a 2019 incident that locked users out of Facebook for more than a day, the extent of this latest outage was more far-reaching and, to some extent, stranger. Facebook has now come out with an official explanation, and, fortunately, it isn’t as bad as some feared.
There was no security intrusion or hacking involved, and Facebook assures the public that no data was compromised during this downtime. It was, in the end, a simple but extremely damaging configuration update that locked out not just Facebook users but even Facebook employees from Facebook, both virtually and physically.
At the heart of the problem was the Border Gateway Protocol or BGP that Facebook described as the backbone that coordinated network traffic between its data centers. The faulty configuration change not only affected how users accessed Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, it even affected how Facebook employees accessed the company’s buildings. This unsurprisingly affected how fast Facebook could work to address the issue.
While the company has started to recover from the outage, Facebook executives, including Mark Zuckerberg, issued public apologies for the disruption it caused. This affected not just people trying to connect with friends but also businesses that use the platform to connect with customers and vice-versa. It also proves that, despite all the criticism, Facebook still plays a critical role in the world today, for better or for worse.