What happened to Facebook yesterday? Why did FB, Instagram and WhatsApp outage occur - and are they still down?

After Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram suffered a major outage lasting over six hours, the social media and messaging sites are back online – here’s what you need to know

Is Facebook still down? Here's why FB, Instagram and WhatsApp were down yesterday - and what BGP means (Image credit: Pexels/Canva Pro)

Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram all went down on Monday evening shortly after 4.30pm as users around the world found themselves unable to access the giant social media and messaging services across desktop and mobile devices.

The company managed to get servers back online just before 12am on Monday night as users flocked to Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat and Signal for alternative means of online communication.

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The cause of the tech outage is now confirmed to have arisen from configuration errors with Facebook’s Domain Name System (DNS).

But what caused the Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram outage last night? And why were websites down for so long?

Here’s what you need to know about why Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram were down yesterday.

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When did Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram go down yesterday?

Down Detector saw user reports of issues in accessing Facebook spike at 39,059 at 4.41pm on Monday, with user reports of outages for WhatsApp spiking at 74,944 at 4.51pm.

Facebook responded to reports of an outage affecting its sites at 5.22pm on Monday (4 October).

"We’re aware that some people are having trouble accessing our apps and products,” Facebook wrote on its Twitter account.

"We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, and we apologise for any inconvenience.”

Likewise users logging on to WhatsApp or trying to access its desktop platform were met with a loading screen and continuous ‘connecting’ status bar at the top of their screen.

Users saw a clock displaying next to messages on WhatsApp for hours during the outage, with the clock icon used to indicate that messages are still sending and awaiting a more stable connection to go through.

WhatsApp took to Twitter to address the connectivity issues, writing at 5.16pm: "We’re aware that some people are experiencing issues with WhatsApp at the moment.

"We’re working to get things back to normal and will send an update here as soon as possible.

"Thanks for your patience!”

Who owns Instagram and WhatsApp?

Booming social media platforms Instagram and WhatsApp are owned by Facebook, the giant Big Tech company headed up by Mark Zuckerberg.

The instant image-based social media site, Instagram, was snapped up by Facebook in a $1 billion acquisition in 2012.

Facebook went on to purchase WhatsApp in February 2014 for a whopping $19 billion before swallowing up VR hardware company, Oculus VR, in the same year.

Oculus and its VR headsets interwoven with Facebook accounts and services were also consequently hit by outages on Monday night.

The Big Tech behemoth has been facing increased criticism recently, with The Wall Street Journal publishing a series of reports exposing the company’s suppression of internal research confirming that Instagram was causing considerable harm to teenagers.

One of the internal Facebook documents obtained by The Wall Street Journal in September disclosed that among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of American users traced the issue to Instagram.

What caused the Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram outage?

Early reports on Monday evening indicated that issues with Facebook’s servers were to blame for the outage.

While many speculated that Facebook and its sites had been hacked, the company later confirmed that it had occurred as a result of configuration errors.

In a statement issued on Tuesday morning, Facebook Engineering said: “To all the people and businesses around the world who depend on us, we are sorry for the inconvenience caused by today’s outage across our platforms.

"We’ve been working as hard as we can to restore access, and our systems are now back up and running.

"The underlying cause of this outage also impacted many of the internal tools and systems we use in our day-to-day operations, complicating our attempts to quickly diagnose and resolve the problem.”

The company added: “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.”

Facebook’s inability to access its servers was compounded by the fact that the company centralises the majority of its data and web protocols routing providers to Facebook sites through its giant, central platform – with web distribution networks intended to act in a cooperative, shared network instead centralised within Facebook itself.

As a result, company employees found themselves unable to physically enter Facebook offices as these too were aligned with the same system and connected to this mass, centralised server network through Internet of Things technology.

What is Border Gateway Protocol and how was it involved in the FB outage?

A number of Facebook’s Domain Name System (DNS) records were reportedly withdrawn from global internet routing tables on Monday, with internet systems and providers consequently unable to find Facebook’s domain names and site information.

John Graham-Cumming, chief technology officer at web infrastructure firm Cloudflare, tweeted early on in the outage to say that issues appeared to be stemming from a configuration error which saw “a large number of changes” take place to Facebook’s border gateway protocol (BGP) routes.

Border gateway protocol is the underlying protocol of the internet which determines how traffic is physically routed and peered across the internet.

So when Facebook sent misconfigured updates to BGP routing tables on Monday, it suggested to internet providers that its servers no longer existed.

Cybersecurity experts and analysts have since observed that the Facebook outage is an example of what can happen when the centralisation of routing information and data confound the decentralised way in which information is supposed to be shared and delivered across peered networks.

Are Facebook and WhatsApp still down?

As of 8am on Tuesday morning, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram all appeared to be back up and running.

Facebook’s statement also confirmed this.

"Our services are now back online and we’re actively working to fully return them to regular operations,” the company said.

"We want to make clear at this time we believe the root cause of this outage was a faulty configuration change.

"We also have no evidence that user data was compromised as a result of this downtime."

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