Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp went down on October 4, 2021. It may not seem like a particularly notable event at first glance. But these are among the most used apps on the global internet. As such, this wasn't a little bit of downtime. It wasn't just one website.
It was an entire empire brought to its knees...and an impressive amount of local businesses brought to their knees as well.
Early reports estimated that Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, lost more than $6 billion in just a handful of hours since his websites went offline. Small businesses who depend on Facebook for their revenue likely lost even more.
In the aftermath of the events, Facebook Engineering expressed their sympathies, "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."
A person familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly, told Interesting Engineering that Facebook’s internal communication platform, Workplace, went down for most of the work day.
Now, it seems they are finally coming back online. The Facebook app slowly began to recover from the prolonged outage just moments ago, though problems still persisted for many users (and for both reporters on this story). The outage is the longest and the biggest in recent years. Facebook and Instagram appeared to partly reconnect at 5:45 pm EST on Oct. 4, after a nearly six-hour outage.
Ultimately, Downdetector said was the largest such failure it had ever seen, with a total of more than 10.6 million problem reports globally. And unfortunately for the social media giant, the outage wasn't the only blow to their reputation and business operations. On Sunday, a whistleblower accused the company of repeatedly prioritizing profit over clamping down on hate speech and misinformation. This, it seems, was just the tipping point of Facebook's problems.
As earlier reporting by Interesting Engineering noted, the tech problem seemed to stem from an error on Facebook's end. A Facebook spokesman confirmed that the services were slowly coming back online, but cautioned that it would take some time for them to stabilize. “We’re sorry,” the company said on Twitter.
Courtney Nash, a senior research analyst at security company Verica, noted the internal nature of the problem. “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," she said.
Ultimately, Facebook's routes were withdrawn earlier this morning. As a result, Facebook’s apps can't be found online, as those routes contained the addresses of Facebook’s domain name system servers.
In short, a DNS system translates familiar Web addresses (such as facebook.com) into a string of numbers that computers can read. And unfortunately, when the servers have issues communicating, it can make websites unreachable. That seems to have been what happened here.
But now, it seems that things are finally starting to be resolved....and a pretty steep monetary cost for some businesses.
This story is developing.