Waking Up from Pandemic Hibernation
AS Malaysia enters the endemic stage of the Covid-19 pandemic, most Malaysians are slowly starting to get back to their usual routine of returning to the office, dining out, shopping, and even relishing the traffic jams that we usually detest so much. Throughout our day, there is one constant in our daily which is our obsession with social media platforms, amongst them Facebook.
For most Malaysians, the 4th of October 2021 started like any other Monday, but towards the end of the day, there was a flurry of outrage when most of the social and communications apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram were slow and seemingly inaccessible, which many thought were due to network data or WiFi issues.
But by Tuesday, it looked like neither the network nor data had any villainous role in the incident. As the day progressed, we were getting reports that the social networking giant, Facebook and its family of apps that include Oculus and Workplace as well suffered an outage. Oculus is a VR headset maker that is owned by Facebook while the latter is its internal communications platform.
The Most Damaging Outage
The disruption that lasted about six hours is said to be the one of the longest outages suffered by the social networking giant and could have affected close to 11 billion people from around the world. Downdetector, which tracks outages, said that figure could be misrepresented as more than 3.5 billion people use Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram. It was reported that some 10.6 million problem reports from around the world were submitted starting from around 11:30 a.m ET.
“Technology outages are not uncommon, but to have so many apps go dark from the world’s largest social media company at the same time was highly unusual. Facebook’s last significant outage was in 2019, when a technical error affected its sites for 24 hours, in a reminder that a snafu can cripple even the most powerful internet companies” wrote Mike Isaac and Sheera Frenkel in a New York Times article.
Facebook, in a statement apologized for inconvenience caused by the outage across their platforms. As for the cause of the outage it said “Our engineering teams have learned that configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centers caused issues that interrupted this communication. This disruption to network traffic had a cascading effect on the way our data centers communicate, bringing our services to a halt.
The shutdown suffered by Facebook only brought to light our high dependency on social media tools to help us get through our day. Many were left bereft from communicating with their friends and loved ones and/or conducting their business via the social media applications.
How The Disruption Affected Livelihood
Here are some of the instances reported in the New York Times article titled “Gone in Minutes, Out for Hours: Outage Shakes Facebook”. “With Facebook being down we’re losing thousands in sales,” said Mark Donnelly, a start-up founder in Ireland who runs HUH Clothing, a fashion brand focused on mental health that uses Facebook and Instagram to reach customers. “It may not sound like a lot to others but missing out on four or five hours of sales could be the difference between paying the electricity bill or rent for the month.”
Samir Munir, who owns a food-delivery service in Delhi, said he was unable to reach clients or fulfill orders because he runs the business through his Facebook page and takes orders via WhatsApp. “Everything is down, my whole business is down,” he said.
In the statement, it also explained that Facebook too wasn’t exempt from the downtime as it had impacted many of the internal tools and systems they use in their day-to-day operations, complicating their attempts to quickly diagnose and resolve the problem.
Employees said they had trouble making calls from work-issued cellphones and receiving emails from people outside the company. Facebook’s internal communications platform, Workplace, was also taken out, leaving many unable to do their jobs. Some turned to other platforms to communicate.
Some Facebook employees who had returned to working in the office were also unable to enter buildings and conference rooms because their digital badges stopped working. Security engineers said they were hampered from assessing the outage because they could not get to server areas.
Malaysians, Did You Realize the Outage?
Upon realizing the downtime that took place on Monday night, ESPC2Go reporters conducted a poll to see how the outage affected our people. From 94 respondents, 50% said the downtime did not affect them while 28% admitted to not knowing that major social media platforms were down and out. 18% said they switched apps while 5% – which we can only assume could be the Generation Z and Millennials – confessed that they depend on socials and therefore found themselves at a loss on Monday night when error messages popped up while WhatsApp shows the “Connecting to WhatsApp” prompt without actually doing it.
Are Traditional Communications Making A Comeback?
Most Malaysians weren’t aware or affected by the outage due to the time difference as it was almost 11.30PM when the shutdown occurred. But one does tend to wonder, had the disruption taken place during working hours on a weekday how much of productivity and financial losses would Malaysians have suffered. During the pandemic and the ensuing lock downs, many small and home businesses resorted to social media platform to promote their products and services. While bigger organizations relied on WhatsApp for communication between employer and employees as well as colleagues looking to accomplish day to day work.
WhatsApp was and is still being used to communicate important messages within a group or team although it isn’t the safest tool for exchanging private and confidential conversations.
This is the personal opinion of the writer, forget the social media platforms and give the traditional method of making a phone call a try. You will love it!
Image credit : Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook