Instagram, WhatsApp Facebook, and Facebook Messenger all went down for people around the world, leaving many without access to the social media company's suite of platforms.
At its peak, more than 119,000 Instagram users had experienced an outage and reported the situation on DownDetector. Another 25,000 had trouble accessing WhatsApp, also according to DownDetector. Facebook Messenger didn't get off easy, with reported outages rising above 5,000 on Friday.
Facebook's suite of platforms came back online after a major outage
Facebook and Instagram recovered fairly quickly as of 2:12 PM EDT on Friday, after a serious multi-platform outage experienced worldwide. Facebook's official "platform status" page showed that the social media platform was in "healthy" mode and was experiencing no issues with service.
Unlike Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram no longer have dedicated server status pages, although Instagram's Twitter account sometimes reports major outages. But a serious outage in both the U.S. and the U.K. were confirmed, with a colossal spike in complaints worldwide showing up on DownDetector from numerous countries, including Japan, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and more.
Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger were all down
"We're sorry, but something went wrong," reads Instagram's main page during the outage. WhatsApp was experiencing similar issues, and so is the Facebook Messenger app.
Facebook hadn't made official comments on the outage as of writing, but there have been similar simultaneous outages for these services. Facebook Gaming Twitter later confirmed that "there are a number of issues currently affecting Facebook products, including gaming streams."
There are a number of issues currently affecting Facebook products, including gaming streams. Multiple teams are working on it, and we'll update you when we can.— Facebook Gaming (@FacebookGaming) March 19, 2021
And naturally, the outage sparked a strong flow of memes on Twitter — which to our knowledge experienced no outages during the incident. And this isn't happening in a vacuum. In December, Instagram DMs experienced an outage, and Instagram and Facebook also saw major outages throughout Thanksgiving 2019.
Facebook's backend integration makes outages more potent
Facebook has experienced several outages in recent years — and it seems like they increase in scope as the three big apps under the company's umbrella become more united on the backend, since when one has a major problem, they all do.
Facebook has carried out extensive work to integrate the backend of its messaging services to enable users to message through various apps, in addition to rolling out new features. But critics have also argued that the further integration of the big three apps could lead to increased difficulty for regulatory powers to break up the apps.
The largest technical issue in recent history hit all of Facebook's apps in 2019, which left the multi-platform suite of apps down for more than a day. Such drastic outages reveal the incredible reach of Facebook and its subsidiary apps — not only were all three apps out of service, but Oculus, in addition to several third-party sites that enable Facebook-based login (like Tinder and Spotify) are also made inoperable to many.
We likely won't hear much as to why Facebook experienced such a serious failure on Friday — since the 2019 outage was followed with a terse explanation, referencing a "server configuration change" — which doesn't say much.
With more than 2 billion people logging on to Facebook's apps every day, even minor and brief outages can rapidly reshape virtual web space globally in minutes. It raises the question of what future outages might look like years from now, when social media juggernauts have an even greater reach via smart homes, virtual reality, and biometric or neural link devices. But for now, all of Facebook's services seem to be restored.
This was a breaking story and was regularly updated as new information became available.