The worlds most popular apps Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp were all down yesterday in what some are describing as a ‘strange’ outage.
The three apps are all owned by the same company even though they appear to be run separately. On face value, there is nothing obvious to link the three different services, and each of them can be used individually.
However, the scale of this outage – and of similar problems in the past – simply highlight the shared infrastructure that powers much of the web. While the internet can appear as a process of visiting a variety of different places that seem not to be linked together at all, they are in fact held together by mostly invisible processes that mean they can simultaneously break.
Perhaps the most spectacular example of that was the previous outage of Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp in March. That lasted for nearly an entire day, and was probably the biggest service failure in the history of the internet.
“By duration, this is by far the largest outage we have seen since the launch of Downdetector in 2012,” Tom Sanders the co-founder of Downdetector told Techcrunch at the time.
“Our systems processed about 7.5 million problem reports from end users over the course of this incident. Never before have we such a large scale outage,” Sanders added.
That last time, no explanation was immediately obvious for the problems. Eventually, Facebook admitted to the issue and gave an explanation – though it was still vague, failing to explain both what happened and how the three different apps can be so closely tied together.
“Yesterday, as a result of a server configuration change, many people had trouble accessing our apps and services,” Facebook posted on its Twitter after the problem was fixed.
“We’ve now resolved the issues and our systems are recovering. We’re very sorry for the inconvenience and appreciate everyone’s patience.”
Presumably, since Facebook bought Instagram and WhatsApp, the servers and processes powering the three have been gradually tied together. That means that despite being ostensibly separate, they likely rely on the same infrastructure – and a problem with it can affect all three.
In the future, that is likely to become yet more prevalent. Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has committed to bringing the three messaging apps together – allowing people to speak between Instagram and WhatsApp, for instance – and that shared backend will bring even more reliance on each other, and potential for simultaneous outages.
But the problem is not necessarily a consequence of the three companies being tied together by ownership. The nature of the web is such that – as the name suggests – each part is strung to every other, and even separate parts of the internet actually rely on each other.
The apps are reportedly working fine now with Instagram using Twitter to announce that it is back.
We’re back! The issue has been resolved and we should be back at 100% for everyone. We’re sorry for any inconvenience. pic.twitter.com/yKKtHfCYMA
— Instagram (@instagram) July 3, 2019
We guess the question is what exactly happened on Wedensday?
Facebook on Thursday morning posted on Twitter that the issues have almost been resolved.
We’re aware that some people are having trouble uploading or sending images, videos and other files on our apps. We’re sorry for the trouble and are working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible. #facebookdown
— Facebook (@facebook) July 3, 2019