Why Did Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp Go Down Today? facebook outage
On Monday, a FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM, WHATSAPP, and Oculus outage took out every aspect of Mark Zuckerberg’s company. It’s a social media blackout that can only be defined as “thorough,” and it looks like it’ll be especially difficult to fix.
Facebook has not acknowledged the core reason of its problems, although there are plenty of hints on the internet. The company’s app family basically vanished from the internet around 11:40 a.m. ET, when its Domain Name System records became unavailable.
DNS is sometimes referred to as the internet’s phone book; it is responsible for converting the host names you type into a URL tab, such as facebook.com, into IP addresses, which are where those sites reside.
DNS errors are rather common, and when in question, they are the cause of a site’s downtime. They can occur for a variety of strange technical reasons, most of which are connected to setup errors, and are usually simple to resolve. In this situation, though, it looks that something more serious is at work.
“Facebook’s outage appears to be caused by DNS; nevertheless, this is only a symptom of the problem,” says Troy Mursch, chief research officer of cyberthreat intelligence firm Bad Packets. The basic problem, according to Mursch and other experts, is that Facebook has removed the so-called Border Gateway Protocol route that carries the IP addresses of its DNS nameservers. If DNS is the internet’s phone book, BGP is its navigation system; it determines how data travels the information superhighway.
“Think of it like a game of telephone,” Angelique Medina, director of product marketing at network monitoring provider Cisco ThousandEyes, explains, but instead of humans playing, it’s smaller networks letting each other know how to reach them. “They broadcast this path to their neighbor, who will then transmit it to their peers.”
It’s a lot of lingo, but it’s simple: Facebook has vanished from the internet’s map. If you try to ping those IP addresses right now, what happens? Mursch explains that “the packets end up in a black hole.”
A map shows where Facebook is unreachable due to DNS resolution failures—basically, it’s everywhere, all at once. COURTESY OF CISCO THOUSAND EYES
The obvious, unanswered question is why the BGP routes vanished in the first place. It is not a common condition, especially on this scale or over such a long period of time. During the downtime, Facebook said only that it is “trying to restore things back to normal as soon as possible.” After service was restored late Monday afternoon, it issued a statement that lacked technical specifics. “To everyone who was impacted by today’s downtime on our platforms: we apologize,” the business said. “We understand that billions of people and businesses all over the world rely on our goods and services to stay connected. We appreciate your patience as we return to service.”
why did facebook really go down today
The internet infrastructure specialists who spoke with WIRED all agreed that a misconfiguration on Facebook’s behalf was the most likely explanation. “It appears like Facebook has done something to their routers, which connect the Facebook network to the rest of the internet,” says John Graham-Cumming, CTO of internet infrastructure business Cloudflare, who emphasizes that he is unaware of the specifics. After all, the internet, he claims, is essentially a network of networks, each of which advertises its presence to the others. For the first time, Facebook has ceased advertising.
This also implies that Facebook’s external services are not the only ones affected. You can’t, for example, utilize “Login with Facebook” on third-party websites. And, because the company’s internal networks are unable to connect to the outside internet, its employees are apparently unable to get much work done today. (Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri even tweeted, “It feels like a snow day.”)
That could also explain why things are taking so long to get back up and running. In 2019, a Google Cloud outage prohibited Google engineers from connecting to the internet in order to fix the Google Cloud outage that was keeping them offline. It appears that Facebook is caught in a similar catch-22, unable to connect to the internet in order to repair the BGP routing issue that would allow it to connect to the internet.
The good news is that once Facebook is able to reverse whatever setup caused this, it should be back in business in no time. “When it’s fixed, traffic will really start flowing,” Medina says.
why did facebook really go down today
Meanwhile, the rest of the internet has felt the absence of Facebook. Or, more particularly, DNS resolvers like Cloudflare—services that turn domain names into IP addresses—have seen up to double the usual amount of traffic as consumers continue to try to load Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp without success. Those demands aren’t enough to overload the system, but the spike serves as a reminder of how interdependent, and often fragile, the internet is.
“It’s not so much the dramatic story of the entire internet collapsing, or some bullshit like that,” Graham-Cumming explains. “It’s more of a linked system that stays up partly because of technical stuff and partly because of people who keep an eye on it 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
A Facebook statement has been added to this story.
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