Facebook apps slowly recovered from a prolonged, global outage on Monday evening, though problems persisted for many users.
Facebook and many apps in its suite of social media and chat services went dark for hours. Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger were unreachable for many users, who saw a spinning wheel on their apps that never loaded.
Facebook and Instagram started to load again for some users Monday evening, though some delays continued. The outage is one of the most prolonged and most extensive in years for the tech giant, boasting billions of users worldwide. Some Facebook apps suffered another major outage in 2019.
While the outage was widely joked about on Twitter, its impact was felt worldwide by people and small businesses that rely on social media site. Facebook support groups for illnesses were down. Group WhatsApp chats connecting family members in different countries were down.
What Happened To Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp & Others?
Facebook spokesman Andy Stone tweeted that the company was aware of the issues and was “working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience.”
Reports on Downdetector suggest that users across the United States, Egypt, Serbia, Ghana and many other places were impacted. The issues began at about 11:39 a.m. Eastern time.
“Something happened internally at Facebook that messed with their network settings on how Facebook talks to the rest of the world and accesses the Internet,” said Courtney Nash, senior research analyst at security company Verica.
The issue seems to be with Facebook’s border gateway protocol routes, or paths that allow routers to exchange information, said Doug Madory, director of Internet analysis for Kentik, a network monitoring company. Madory calls them the “underpinnings of how the Internet operates.”
Facebook’s routes were withdrawn this morning, he said, and now Facebook’s apps cannot be found online because those routes contained the addresses of Facebook’s domain name system servers.
DNS systems translate familiar Web addresses, such as facebook.com, into a string of numbers that computers can read. When the servers have issues communicating, it can make websites unreachable.
The outage appeared to be global, Madory said, and it’s nearly unheard of to have such a large company go down for so long.
“This is massive,” Madory said. “It’s completely dead.”
It’s also possible the outage was affecting other Internet services, Nash said. When the services went down, so many users tried to load the sites that caused a run of traffic on the Internet’s DNS infrastructure.
“The reason these failures are so crazy is that there’s so much interconnectedness of the Internet we rely on,” Nash said.
The company hasn’t confirmed what caused the outage. Similar outages from other tech companies have been due to internal network configuration changes that caused errors, Madory said.
It’s unlikely Facebook was affected by an external hack, Nash said.
If an internal change caused the issue, Nash said it could have been an update that mistakenly caused an error or even an automated update. It’s difficult to say without confirmation from Facebook.
“Was it malicious? I don’t know. I can’t say,” she said.
As is typical, when one social media site goes down, people flock to another one to vent their issues. Twitter was full of Facebook and Instagram users checking in on other’s statuses.
“Oh no!” one user tweeted, with the hashtag #instagramdown.
Others were grateful for the break. “No worries, just leave it like that,” another user tweeted.
The company also got in on the chatter. “hello literally everyone,” its official account tweeted. But the fun didn’t last for everyone — Twitter’s support account tweeted in the afternoon that the extra traffic had caused some issues.
“Sometimes more people than usual use Twitter,” the post said. “We prepare for these moments, but today things didn’t go exactly as planned. Some of you may have had an issue seeing replies and DMs as a result. This has been fixed. Sorry about that!”