It is the biggest social media shutdown in history – and there is as yet no inkling of how long Facebook and all its other platforms, including Instagram, Facebook Messenger and What’sApp, will be down for.
While all the platforms have put out messages of apology, and reassurances that they are working on the problem, but the sheer scale of the issues have left experts wondering if it could be days before things are back up and running and back to normal for the social media giant’s services.
When Facebook experienced a minor outtage in July that left people struggling with only some of its services, the app and refreshing their home pages, it was almost 24 hours from start to finish that the issues were ironed out completely.
This time, things are a lot more serious for Facebook, with all of its sites experiencing a complete shutdown, and no word on exactly what has gone wrong.
But it clearly is serious, and much more serious than July’s outtage. Word has come through from the US that Facebook’s employees have been struggling to even access the company’s internal systems – which makes tackling the issue even harder – and there were even unconfirmed reports being tweeted that Facebook’s staff couldn’t even access the building using their employee ID cards.
The first clues for the experts came from the initial message people were first presented with when Facebook dropped out at around 4.30pm UK time – just before lunchtime in the US. This reported that the issue was a BGP configuration error – BGP stands for Border Gateway Protocol, the system that allows people within the site to click on something else and be redirected within the website to somewhere else – for example, if you are on Facebook and then click on someone’s profile.
But then Facebook’s chief technical officer Mike Schroepfer said the company was ‘experiencing networking issues’, and that teams were ‘working as fast as possible to debug and restore as fast as possible’.
So it’s likely that even the man in charge of making sure Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram are running properly doesn’t actually know how long it will take to make that happen.
Tech expert journalist Brian Krebs claimed that the issue was deep within Facebook’s own internal internet system – the DNS was switched off that sparked the outtage. That’s the Domain Name Server, which literally then meant that not only did Facebook crash, but anything with the internet address facebook.com, including employees’ own email addresses, would have also crashed.
“Confirmed: The DNS records that tell systems how to find http://Facebook.com or http://Instagram.com got withdrawn this morning from the global routing tables,” he wrote. “Can you imagine working at FB right now, when your email no longer works & all your internal FB-based tools fail?
“We don’t know why this change was made. It could well have been the result of an internal, system wide change or update that went awry. It’s all speculation at this point why. FB alone is in control over its DNS records.
“To be more precise (and Geek Factor 5) the BGP routes serving Facebook’s authoritative DNS were withdrawn, rendering all Facebook domains inaccessible. That’s per Doug Madory, who knows a few things about BGP/DNS,” he added.
This may well never be confirmed by Facebook, but even if it is partly true it is a much bigger problem for the company than the relatively minor problem that caused Facebook to drop in and out for people for an afternoon back in July – and that problem lasted a total of 24 hours.
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