Facebook and its core platforms, Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, suffered global outages Monday, October 4th, lasting close to six hours.
With more than 3.5 billion users worldwide using these social media platforms daily, the impact was far-reaching and severe. The outage cut off millions of businesses from their customers and caused e-commerce to slow down significantly across the globe. An outside tracking firm has since reported that this was the most widespread outage in Facebook’s history.
Services are now restored, but questions have been raised about what caused the major outage and why fixing it took so long.
On Tuesday, the social media giant issued a statement apologising to all the people and businesses affected by the outage and explaining the cause.
“To all the people and businesses around the world who depend on us, we are sorry for the inconvenience caused by today’s outage across our platforms”, the issue stated. “We’ve been working as hard as we can to restore access, and our systems are now back up and running”.
In the statement, Santosh Janardhan, Facebook’s VP of infrastructure, further explained that the reason for the outage was a configuration change to the backbone routers that coordinate communication between Facebook’s data centres. These changes disrupted network traffic and had a cascading effect on how the data centres communicate, bringing all services to a halt.
As a result, all other Facebook services, like Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messengers, were affected as well. The issue further states that the root cause was a faulty configuration change and that no user data was compromised during the downtime.
The outage also affected Facebook’s internal systems, which reportedly caused employees to become locked out of their offices, making it harder for them to diagnose and resolve the problem.
Facebook has not stated yet how the issue was eventually fixed. Still, it is widely speculated that a technical team was sent out in California, where the problem initially started, to reset the servers manually.
Aside from the reputational hit, the outage has caused significant financial damage as well. It is estimated that the social media giant has lost roughly $79 million in ad revenue during the six-hour downtime. Furthermore, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth dropped over $6 billion just hours after the platform went down.
This outage also happened at an unfortunate time for Facebook. A day before the global outage, the social media giant faced intense scrutiny after a former employee leaked documents about the company and stated that it had prioritised growth and profit over safety.