It’s Going Down, I’m Yelling Timber; Let’s Talk Big Tech
Last Monday, Facebook announced (ironically) via Twitter, that it was aware users were having trouble accessing their products and apps including the popular WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger. Turns out it stopped working for users around the world for several hours. They scrambled to bring it back online, succeeding a whole 6-hours later as Mark Zuckerberg apologized to the world (this time on Facebook, not Twitter).
So, what actually happened? In a nutshell, Facebook’s systems stopped talking to the wider internet. More technically speaking, they explained that “configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centers caused issues that interrupter this communication which had a cascading effect, bringing our services to a halt”.
For some, it was merely separation anxiety from other users and struggles surrounding the addiction of social media, but for many others the outage was no joke. Take WhatsApp as an example. As the most popular messaging app in 100+ countries, and 2.5B+ users around the globe, the world depends on this critical infrastructure. It is the go-to alternative to text, especially in the developing world with underdeveloped, or overly expensive, telecommunications options. Seven countries have a massive 90%+ of their population on the app.
Beyond messaging, Whatsapp delivers critical, and varied, services to different countries. As examples, COVID-19 tests can be ordered on the app in Lebanon, a chatbot connects patients to doctors to report COVID-19 symptoms in Argentina, citizens can use an in-app directory of 1000s of retailers in Brazil, and financial institutions send trade information in London. In India, the app’s largest market with 390 million users, over 15 million small businesses use the Whatsapp Business platform.
Evidently, the shutdown heavily impacted the ability for the platform’s 2.8 billion users to communicate and do business, highlighting the over-reliance on Facebook’s services. The monopolistic behavior of Facebook which was previously not recognized by its users surely felt the burn of it. The outage caused plenty of problems and concerns, but arguably the biggest lesson learnt is that it’s wrong to be dependent on single platforms. What will happen if Facebook goes down again, and how users will diversify to protect their downside moving forward, is yet to be determined.
Lauren Thurin, VP, Business Development
Facebook’s outage happened a day after the unmasking of Frances Haugen, the social network’s whistleblower and former employee. The two incidents give credence to the belief that Facebook needs more regulation.
Outage or outrage? Facebook’s stock fell a whopping 5.4% over the 6-hour shutdown, as well as the scandalous whistleblower interview. According to an estimate by Fortune, the outage also resulted in a loss of $99.75 million in revenue.
Check out Netflix’s The Social Dilemma to understand the importance of how big social media companies manipulate users by using algorithms that encourage addiction to their platforms (arguably why Facebook’s outage let to so much outrage). If I haven’t convinced you, check out 8 reasons why you must watch it.
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