Why WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram suffered outage that lasted over 7 hours
In one of the worst-ever outages in digital history, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and even Messenger went down virtually at the same time. It was not just the websites that were down, the same fate befell their apps too. https://web.whatsapp.com, https://facebook.com and https://www.instagram.com were all down and stayed down for over 7 hours. While the crash itself left users across the globe unable to communicate with their loved ones, what was strange was the fact that it took so long for these social media giants to acknowledge the issue. With no official information to go by, users kept on trying to log in without success. The frustration was vented by many taking to Twitter over their disappointment.
Earlier, a site that monitors reports of outages across the internet, Downdetector, said the Facebook service outage is the largest it has ever seen.
The company said in a post on Monday, “The largest outage we've ever seen on Downdetector.”
When the service was finally restored, tech giant's CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted this message on Facebook, “Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger are coming back online now."
He added, "Sorry for the disruption today -- I know how much you rely on our services to stay connected with the people you care about."
However, users should note that the service has not been restored for everyone. It is still in the process of being restored.
As to why WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram crashed, since they did not admit they were hacked, it is being reported that what caused the fiasco was a DNS server error. What DNS does is allow web addresses to take users to their destinations. Since all three of these social media sites went down at the same time, it does indicate there was a common point that had been hit badly. In earlier such instances, a DNS server issue had been blamed. However, no instance of this nature has been experienced till today.
Several Facebook employees who declined to be named said that they believed that the outage was caused by an internal mistake in how internet traffic is routed to its systems. This would include a DNS issue. The failures of internal communication tools and other resources that depend on that same network in order to work compounded the error, the employees said.
Security experts said an inadvertent mistake or sabotage by an insider were both plausible.
"Facebook basically locked its keys in its car," tweeted Jonathan Zittrain, director of Harvard's Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.
The Verge has quoted experts as saying it was due to an issue with the networking technology BGP, or Border Gateway Protocol.
According to Fortinet, Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) refers to a gateway protocol that enables the internet to exchange routing information between autonomous systems (AS). It says, “As networks interact with each other, they need a way to communicate. This is accomplished through peering. BGP makes peering possible. Without it, networks would not be able to send and receive information with each other."
Twitter on Monday reported higher-than-normal usage, which led to some issues in people accessing posts and direct messages.
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Acknowledging the issue after some 30 minutes of the outage, WhatsApp tweeted this: "We're aware that some people are experiencing issues with WhatsApp at the moment. We're working to get things back to normal and will send an update here as soon as possible."
Instagram went on Twitter to post this tweet: “Instagram and friends are having a little bit of a hard time right now, and you may be having issues using them. Bear with us, we're on it!”
Facebook went to the extent of actually saying sorry to its users - the only one to do so. It tweeted, "We're aware that some people are having trouble accessing our apps and products. We're working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience."
Those who may have a good memory will recall that something like this had happened earlier this year - a similar widespread outage was suffered by Facebook's suite of apps in March and July.
With WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram crashing, Telegram and Signal users certainly were feeling smug. In fact, over the last few months, both these apps have seen a massive surge in users.