#FacebookDown: What Happened to Cause the Outage?

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On Wednesday March 13, Facebook and its popular group of apps including Instagram and WhatsApp were unavailable to many users across the globe. While the company struggled to address what was happening, people were turning to other social media outlets like Twitter to express their frustration with the hashtag #FacebookDown.

Ironically, Facebook also had to turn to rival Twitter for help in communicating the issues as the problem persisted.

Instead of being able to post status updates and selfies, users were getting error messages. Advertisers who spent large amounts of money on promotions via Facebook apps were especially concerned by the length of the outage.

Countries affected by the outage included users in the United States, Europe, and Central and South America. Outages in the U.K. were especially widespread. Reports of outages in Asia began several hours later.

Rumors of Facebook’s vulnerability to hackers spread via Twitter as the outage persisted, though the company insisted this wasn’t what happened. But it was hard for company officials to explain what exactly prevented them from solving the problem for over fourteen hours. According to CNN, it’s believed to be the biggest interruption suffered by a social media network.

By Thursday morning, Facebook had identified most of the problems and were completing fixes.

"We made a server configuration change that triggered a cascading series of issues. As a result, many people had difficulty accessing our apps and services," Facebook said in a statement. "Our systems have been recovering over the last few hours."

Server configuration can determine how traffic is routed and what happens to it in the system, which can lead to more issues that need to be detected, as seems to be the case for Facebook. The more complex and vast the system, the harder it is to pinpoint each problem.

In addition to its server configuration issues, Facebook announced Thursday that two key executives - Chris Cox who joined in 2005, and Chris Daniels, the head of WhatsApp - had both resigned.

Facebook has faced many challenges over the last couple of years, including managing its growing influence on the political landscape of many countries. Consumer advocates have called for stricter measures on stopping accounts that spread fake news stories. However, Facebook has been slow to respond because of its advocacy for free speech over its platform, which some have argued aids extensively in the spread of propaganda.

The company has also been accused of sharing data with preferred third parties such as Amazon and Apple. The New York Times recently reported that subpoenas were issued as part of a Grand Jury investigation.

The outage will likely be costly for Facebook, biting into its projected average daily revenue of about $189 million based on sales estimates, according to USA Today, and adding to its growing list of public concerns.

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