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The server room at Facebook’s data center in Prineville, Oregon. The server room at Facebook’s data center in Prineville, Oregon, undated (file photo by Alan Brandt provided by Facebook to AP Images).

The Facebook Outage Also Highlights the Internet’s Aging Foundations

Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021

Facebook had a week from hell last week, even without the testimony to Congress of whistleblower Frances Haugen. Two separate technical outages knocked out its entire suite of services—Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, Oculus and Instagram. The incident highlights the fragility that a massive consolidation of resources brings to the global information and communications network, caused by the emergence of supernodes such as Facebook and its Big Tech rivals. It also reveals the disparity of public debate surrounding social media platforms on one hand and the internet’s foundational protocols on the other. (In the interests of transparency, Facebook is a client of my company, Oxford Information Labs, but the information in this piece is derived only from public sources.)

The second Facebook outage—which occurred on Friday, Oct. 8—was bad; a configuration error brought down some services for a proportion of users. But the preceding outage on Monday, Oct. 4, was awful, a disastrous spiral of events that led to a single configuration error taking out some of the world’s most popular digital services for six hours. ...

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