What really happened to Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp – outage explained

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Social media platforms including Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram were out of action for several hours on Monday, October 4, prompting outrage from billions. The outage lasted almost six hours and was blamed on an internal technical issues by Facebook bosses. Services were down from around 4pm to 10pm on Monday. Express.co.uk explains what actually happened in the wake of the widespread disruption.

Facebook apologised for its longest-ever outage on Monday night which affected billions of social media users.

The social media giant shared a statement on Twitter at 11.31pm thanking its users for their patience during the outage.

The statement read: “To the huge community of people and businesses around the world who depend on us: we’re sorry.

“We’ve been working hard to restore access to our apps and services and are happy to report they are coming back online now.

“Thank you for bearing with us.”

The social media firm blamed the fault on a “faulty configuration change”.

The company said the issue had caused problems across multiple platforms used by billions of people around the world.

Facebook said the faulty configuration change impacted the company’s internal tools and systems which complicated attempts to resolve the problem. 

Cloudflare, which recently faced a similar internet outage issue, explained what this issue actually mean.

The company said it involves two elements which help the internet function: the Domain Name System (DNS) and the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP).

The internet works as a series of connected networks which means a BGP is needed to enable you to navigate it.

DNS is essentially the address system for the location of each website, its IP address, while the BGP is the roadmap which helps the platform navigate the most efficient way to get to an IP address.

Cloudflare said the Facebook outage was a result of BGP through a series of updates which said Facebook no longer existed. 

This meant users trying to reach Facebook and the other platforms affected were unable to do so because the BGP could not find the path to access it.

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The issue took around six hours in total to resolve.

Facebook’s own internal systems are run from the same place which means it was difficult for workers to diagnose and resolve the problem.

Everything Facebook undertakes is run through Facebook – which means when there is a problem with the platform it can be difficult to figure out the issue.

Staff at the firm were reportedly unable to access their communications platform Workplace and were also left without access to their office due to a security pass system fault.

The social media firm indicated the duration and severity of the outage contributed to the slow return to normal service.

Facebook has not detailed more about what went wrong and how the issue was fixed.

However, some reports emerged claiming the company dispatched a technical team to its servers in California to manually reset the servers where the issue originated. 

There has not been any cost analysis of how much the outage cost the founder of the company, Mark Zuckerberg.

According to Bloomberg, the outage and a whistleblower story published on Sunday, have cost Mr Zuckerberg’s personal wealth to fall by $6bn (£4.4bn) and for the share price to fall by 4.9 percent.

Could this outage happen again?

The Facebook outage is not unprecedented and other platforms including Cloudfare in 2002 and Fastly in June have experienced similar outages for the same reason.

The problem is fairly uncommon but is not something that can be completely avoided.

The outage has sparked widespread conversation on people’s reliance on social media – especially given its role in some countries as a dominant means of communication, particularly with services like WhatsApp.

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