UPDATE: Facebook has posted an explanation for yesterday's outage on its engineering blog. And it turns out we were very close to the truth: this was indeed a human mistake which was made all the worse by the fact that the update also took out Facebook's internal systems which meant that staff, mostly working remotely, were even more hampered in their attempts to fix the problem.
"Our engineering teams have learned that configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centers caused issues that interrupted this communication. This disruption to network traffic had a cascading effect on the way our data centers communicate, bringing our services to a halt.
Our services are now back online and we’re actively working to fully return them to regular operations. We want to make clear at this time we believe the root cause of this outage was a faulty configuration change. We also have no evidence that user data was compromised as a result of this downtime."
The original article follows.
If you're wondering why WhatsApp isn't sending messages and you're not receiving any, you're not alone. Millions of users are checking their Wi-Fi and 4G connections, but it's not them: WhatsApp is down. And so is Facebook, which owns WhatsApp. Messenger and Instagram are also down, and also owned by Facebook.
Both Facebook and WhatsApp have posted on Twitter to let users know they're aware of the problem and are working on fixing it.
Details are in short supply, and the cause of the outage hasn't yet been disclosed. All we know - via KrebsonSecurity - is that it isn't simply a failure of servers in datacentres. Instead it's Facebook itself which has effectively shut down access to its services.
According to the blog post "... sometime this morning Facebook took away the map telling the world’s computers how to find its various online properties. As a result, when one types Facebook.com into a web browser, the browser has no idea where to find Facebook.com, and so returns an error page."
Ryan Mac, a reporter for the New York Times posted a tweet saying that because the outage also affects the tools Facebook employees use, they could do no work:
Not only are Facebook's services and apps down for the public, its internal tools and communications platforms, including Workplace, are out as well. No one can do any work. Several people I've talked to said this is the equivalent of a "snow day" at the company.— Ryan Mac 🙃 (@RMac18) October 4, 2021
It's possible that the shut-down has been the result of hacking, but until Facebook explains what's going on, we're all in the dark about the reasons behind it. Who knows, it could be a good, old-fashioned screw-up by one of Facebook's employees.
Social media that isn't owned by Facebook is working fine, so TikTok, Snapchat and Twitter users can carry on as normal. Those trying to access Facebook's website will see an error like the one below, but while it's possible to load Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram apps, you'll find that their feeds won't refresh and messages and photos won't be sent or received.
Speaking for Facebook on Twitter, Andy Stone 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."
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.— Andy Stone (@andymstone) October 4, 2021
WhatsApp's official account tweeted: "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. Thanks for your patience!"
Service tracker DownDetector.co.uk was receiving over 70,000 reports per minute from WhatsApp users that they couldn't use the app and although complaints dropped off, this doesn't mean the problem is fixed.
Of course, the disruption opens up the broader question of whether any company should wield such power that it prevents so many people from communicating when its services go offline. There are, of course, other social networks and the humble SMS, though with outages reported for some US carriers, even they may be unavailable right now.
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