Why was Facebook Down? Learn What Disconnected Billions of People Worldwide


POV: It’s a Monday afternoon and you pick up your phone to scroll through your Facebook feed and catch up with friends from the weekend. But, wait—why won’t anything load?!? Refreshing the mobile app multiple times, you finally come to your senses: Is Facebook down? However, you don’t fully come to this realization though until after you have checked your internet connection several times just to verify that it is not on your end. This scenario was a reality for the social media network’s 2.9 billion users on October 4, when uses experienced a Facebook outage.


Facebook down left user’s confused

The largest Facebook outage in the platform’s history since 2008, users first reported issues with the connected social media networks beginning around noon on October 4. Many users believed their personal data was compromised and the Facebook shutdown was the work of a malicious hacker, which is not uncommon. As rumors began to fly, and users took to Twitter for answers, Facebook officials were not able to provide clear reasoning until further investigation, once the servers resumed normal social media activity and functioning.


So, why was Facebook down?

What started with routine maintenance for Facebook and its associated networks, turned quickly into more than six hours of users being unable to utilize the services and features of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. The Facebook outage was caused by an issue in the communication/firing of Facebook’s command center and internal network during the scheduled maintenance. Facebook took ownership of the error on the social media network’s back end. On Facebook’s engineering blog, officials clarified and pinpointed the network’s major pitfall. “This disruption to network traffic had a cascading effect on the way our data centers communicate, bringing our services to a halt.”


How the Facebook shutdown affected users globally

An inconvenience for casual users looking to share weekend highlights and tag friends in shared recipes quickly became a legitimate problem for businesses worldwide. With the recent overhaul of working from home, many businesses utilize social media and online communication services such as WhatsApp to deliver important messaging and generate workplace collaboration internally. For long-distance family and friends, the inability to easily connect on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp hindered quality time and opportunities to stay connected.


For WhatsApp users, in particular, global communication was radio silent in nearly two dozen nations where the messaging app leads app stores. With Facebook down, one user tweeted, “Have you any idea what it is like to lose WhatsApp and with it your connection to half of India?” Businesses lost central lines of communication during peak workday hours, so it is safe to say the impact of the social media shutdown may have a longer financial impact on certain companies across the globe.


Takeaways for Facebook and lessons learned from the widespread shutdown

The events of October 4 cost Facebook between approximately $60 and $100 million in advertising. That being said, there is a lot to be learned from this internal error for Facebook and other companies with a social media presence or server. The first takeaway is to recognize that mistakes are sometimes inevitable, and outages are an unfortunate part of online usage. Human error is bound to happen, but there are ways to mitigate error. Another key lesson for Facebook is to have a strong fallback plan because, as we saw, when one domino within Facebook’s server fell, so did WhatsApp and Instagram. With the chain reaction of outages across associated network services, companies must establish a plan in place to prevent one system’s error from shutting everything down completely. Facebook’s largest outage within the past decade might have been avoided, but now it is important to learn from the mistakes and errors made for both the face of social media networks and other companies alike.


Monday, October 4 is now a day Facebook, and most of the world, will not forget for quite some time. While the Facebook outage was very severe and costly for many, the company has ensured to do better and pledged to never let a widespread shutdown of this magnitude occur anytime soon. For now, we are all connected again and in unprecedented times like these, online connection is everything.