This week, as the world looked on at the Brexit omnishambles and Boeing grounding its deeply troubled 737 Max fleet, another storm was brewing.
On Wednesday at around 4pm GMT, a number of the world’s biggest websites, to put it technically, fell over, resulting in mass outages, broken pages and buggy functionality. Big hitters including Facebook, Instagram, Etsy and Whatsapp all experienced issues, while a slightly shaky Twitter soldiered on, providing frustrated users an outlet to vent their spleens with memes and videos.
It took 14 hours for Facebook to get its main site working as normal, along with its Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp sites. This is the longest outage in the company’s history, and there’s still no public statement about exactly what happened. As tech editor and Facebook aficionado Andrew Griffin reported on the night, Facebook confirmed that the remarkable outage was not caused by a distributed denial of service attack (DDOS). Simply put, many initially thought that it could be a malicious attack on the servers where Facebook exists, by bombarding them with so many requests that they couldn’t keep up. It is with a certain sense of irony that Facebook had to use its competitor, Twitter, to tell us this wasn’t the case.
Instagram also used Twitter to update its rather distraught users.
In addition to the countless businesses and advertisers affected by the failure, news organisations like ours were also left somewhat in the lurch, unable to post any of our articles, analysis and opinion to the widest possible audience on a dramatic night of Brexit votes in the House of Commons.
It’s in these situations where Google really is an editor’s best friend. As we reported on Theresa May’s humiliating defeat and the ongoing global tech problems, our Twitter followers and those moving to the search engines for updates were still getting the latest updates from us. We were also lucky that our existing Facebook posts were still available for readers to access (we just couldn’t post any new ones), meaning that our constantly refreshing live blogs could be a port in the storm for Facebook users unable to post updates.
Contrary to popular belief, when one of the biggest social media networks crumbles, a social media editor doesn’t get to head off to the pub (a drink was needed eventually, though). Hopefully, we won’t be seeing another social media and messenger apocalypse as large as this any time soon… but if Twitter tumbles, Facebook falters and the messengers have a meltdown, maybe it’s time to go back to beepers?
Yours, Josh Withey
Social media editor
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