On October 4, 2021, Facebook and its other platforms, including Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger, went down globally for close to six hours. As services are restored, questions about what caused the Facebook outage and why it took so long to resolve are raised.
For hours, billions of users could not access Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp as the social media giant worked to restore services.
Why did Facebook go down?
People began to notice they couldn’t access Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, or Messenger shortly before 5 p.m. UTC. It would take more than five hours for services to be restored.
Facebook issued a statement about the Facebook outage that the cause of the outage was a configuration change to the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between the company’s data centers, which had a cascading effect, bringing all Facebook services to a halt. It meant not only was Facebook gone, but everything Facebook runs disappeared too.
It involves two things that sort out how the internet works – that is Domain Name System (DNS) and Border Gateway Protocol (BGP).
The internet has a lot of connected networks. So that means to keep the order of things, you need something like BGP to tell you where you need to go. DNS is essentially the address system for the location of each website – its IP address – while BGP is the roadmap that finds the most efficient way to get to that IP address.
According to Cloudflare, Facebook made some changes to its BGP configuration on Monday via a series of updates which resulted in the disappearance of routing paths to Facebook servers and causing global facebook outage. But not just for Facebook; it applies to everything Facebook runs. As a result, people attempting to access Facebook were unable to do so.
Why were Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp down?
Not only Facebook but all of its services were affected. It included Facebook’s internal systems, with reports of employees being locked out of offices and unable to access their own internal communications platform.
Can this sort of outage be avoided in the future?
People use Facebook to connect with friends and family and log into other services such as online sales websites. Through services such as WhatsApp, it has become the dominant mode of communication in some countries. The fact that an outage can have such a significant impact on billions of people for several hours must give some pause for thought.
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With 20 years of experience in configuring and managing highly available networks globally has resulted in zero network downtime in the last one decade.
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