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So why were Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp Down Yesterday?

by Felix Omondi

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Yesterday we were all reminded of that old saying, ‘you never really appreciate the well until the water runs dry.’ For most of us, that convenient communication water in the form of WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram went dry. And boy, weren’t we left thirsty and dehydrating as hell in the short period the well was dry!

The Business Platforms

In that short while, many people and businesses lost money. Since we live deep in the era of e-commerce, social media being a critical customer touchpoint for businesses.

It is no secret that social media platforms have become the gateway to the internet. The first place people visit online is their social media pages. It is from this online platform that they can touch base with their friends and family. Brands have long known that and hence use social media platforms for marketing their wares.

Communications Highway

Hardly anyone these days makes normal phone calls or sends standard SMS messages anymore. We are all on that ‘richer user experience’ craze.

Our calls need that extra feature, where you talk and can see someone; video call. Our text messaging needs a more decadent experience where we can show our anger using UPPER CASE letters and include angry face emojis, GIFs, and whatnot. Ehem ehem Google’s RCS, where are you?

So yesterday, the world’s biggest social media platform and its surrogates went offline. That is Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram. Forgive yourself if you had to double-check if your internet connection was on or the subscription was still active.

Some people in buildings had to move closer to the window to see if a stronger cellular signal would fix the problem. Others had to restart their Wi-Fi routers. Some had to ask the person next to them if their WhatsApp was working. A boatload of people took to Twitter to find out what was going on; because Twitter is the instant grapevine for speedy mass news updates.

So what happened?

The question running in the minds of most of us now is what was happening at the Mark Zuckerberg center? Had someone stepped on the line? Did someone spill coffee to the server? Well, as soon as Facebook sorted the mess, they came out to the public and gave the following explanation:

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.

User Data Compromised?

Whenever these tech companies suffer such outages, the fear most cybersecurity-conscious users have in their minds is data security. One might be wondering was the outage deliberate sabotage by hackers and did they manage to steal private user data.

According to Facebook, the problem was caused not by hackers but by the problem mentioned above. They categorically stated that no single user’s data was breached, and hence, there was no cause for data security alarm. Hopefully, that is true, and Facebook can upgrade its infrastructure more carefully next time to not cause any service disruptions.

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