A temporary Facebook outage taught us how reliant we are on one of US lawmakers least favorite tech giants

A temporary Facebook outage taught us how reliant we are on one of US lawmakers least favorite tech giants
Facebook logo and stock graph are displayed through broken glass in this illustration taken October 4, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

What happened?

  • For over five hours on October 5, the once-unimaginable happened: Facebook, and all of its related products, shut down.
  • According to a company blog post, “During one of these routine maintenance jobs, a command was issued with the intention to assess the availability of global backbone capacity, which unintentionally took down all the connections in our backbone network, effectively disconnecting Facebook data centers globally.”
  • In layman’s terms, someone entered a command that was supposed to just see if there were any issues in the network, and accidently shut the whole thing down.
  • That’s got to be a rough day at work.
  • The whole escapade meant that Facebook stock dropped 5% immediately, costing chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg an estimated US$6 billion and the company an estimated US$60 million.
  • And this whole thing comes as Facebook Inc. is the center of hearings in the United States Congress for allegations that it had and hid research that showed that young users and teens felt worse when exposed to platforms like Instagram.

Who was affected?

  • Well, the company got beat up pretty bad, but that was minor compared to the disaster that many business owners, primarily small business owners, felt being cut off from their clients.
  • In Hong Kong, for example, where Facebook-owned Whatsapp is the primary mode of communication, businesses that rely on WhatsApp were practically crippled for the duration of the outage.
  • According to Catherine Perera, a Hong Kong-based psychic and tarot reader, “Most of my clients at night have their readings done through WhatsApp or Instagram, and I couldn’t do that all night. I lost almost HK$2000,” she added.
  • The result was equally bad for many based in the West, for whom the outage happened during the day.
  • Amanda Elchos, a digital marketing specialist at Vibe Clothing Company, a Missouri based online boutique, said the company’s sales “went down 30% during the time of the shutdown.”

Are companies trying to move away from Facebook products now?

  • Elchos said that Vibe had already been expanding beyond Facebook, but the price to pivot on October 5 to other platforms was still costly.
  • “We use Facebook Live Sales to generate sales multiple times a day,” she said, “and we had to pivot and do our Live on our Comment Sold App by texting our customer base and letting them know we were live on that platform.”
  • “It cost us extra money to send that text,” she said.
  • According to Creag Munroe, the Founder and CEO of Elegant Literature Magazine, the blackout “shut us down completely.”
  • He said that he’d been “pouring time into posting in Facebook groups, updating our business page, and messaging key partners on the platform.” But the Facebook shutdown meant that the company conducted almost no business and had zero new sign-ups to a US$20,000 story writing contest it’s currently running.
  • “Since yesterday all our efforts are focused on other mediums like Snapchat for business, LinkedIn, and influencer campaigns.”

Were there any other platforms affected?

  • Munroe explained that because Elegant Literature uses a Facebook plugin known as Pixel on its site, it took more than 15 seconds to load its website and returned a high volume of errors.
  • He said that, “if Facebook going down effectively takes out our website, there’s nothing we can do.”
  • “The Social media giant has the ability to wipe us out without notice.”

What were the reactions from within the industry?

  • Twitter took to, well, Twitter, to express what must have been a good feeling to be the top major social media platform still running.
  • “hello literally everyone,” the company said in a tweet during the blackout of its biggest rivals. The post has since received over 3.3 million likes.
  • Facebook seemed to take the joke well, responding in light-hearted tweets from the Alexa, Instagram and WhatsApp’s Twitter accounts.

What’s next?

  • Facebook has said they’re going to spend some time looking at the issues at play and take some time figuring out how to best prepare for events like this.
  • But the issue now seems to be a little more broad and complicated.
  • Too many people have become too reliant on Facebook, with 2.76 billion people use a Facebook product every day globally, with many using it for their businesses and work.
  • It’s hard to say yet if this will affect Facebook’s stock price in the long run, but at least in the near future, Facebook and the companies reliant on the platform and products are working on contingency plans.
  • “At least next time we’ll be prepared with alternative strategies,” says Munroe.

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