How did you survive the great Facebook blackout of 2019?
Many have questioned in recent times whether the world might be better off without social media, and this week, we got a taste of what that might be like, with Facebook and its properties (Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram) all going down, in varying capacity, for almost an entire day.
That sparked a range of reactions - some took the philosophical, 'you should get outside more' path, while others...
Eventually, Facebook did come back online, though problems persist (you can check the Facebook Developer updates for the latest on resolving the issue). Facebook has pinned the error a 'server configuration change', which is vague enough to avoid deeper probing, and subsequent troubleshooting from armchair experts.
Yesterday, as a result of a server configuration change, many people had trouble accessing our apps and services. We've now resolved the issues and our systems are recovering. We’re very sorry for the inconvenience and appreciate everyone’s patience.— Facebook (@facebook) March 14, 2019
Now the question turns to whether Facebook should reimburse businesses for ads not delivered, or delivered on a semi-functional platform - as reported by Reuters, Facebook is considering whether to refund advertisers for lost exposure due to the problems, though that seems an unlikely outcome.
Facebook reportedly generates an average of $189 million in revenue per day, which is obviously huge, but for context, The Social Network is also on track to bring in $69 billion in total revenue for the year. Given this, a day's loss is not significant in the broader scheme, and it is feasible that Facebook could issue refunds without any ongoing concern - but it is also noted within the Facebook terms of service that:
"We cannot predict when issues might arise with our Products. Accordingly, our liability shall be limited to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law, and under no circumstance will we be liable to you for any lost profits, revenues, information, or data, or consequential, special, indirect, exemplary, punitive, or incidental damages arising out of, or related to, Facebook Products, even if we have been advised of the possibility of such damages."
Facebook could always fall back to this clause in any case.
Either way, Facebook and Instagram are back now, and there doesn't, at this stage, appear to be any ongoing concerns or any lingering risk that this is something we'll see more of, which will be a relief to those users who were feeling lost without their social feeds.
Initial reports of the incident being a DDOS attack were incorrect, which should also give some comfort to businesses who are reliant on the platform to operate - if Facebook could be brought down by outside interests, that would be a major issue of note.
What the outage may have underlined, however, is the need for businesses to diversify their processes, and ensure that they're not reliant on any single platform. A network the size of Facebook's going down is always going to cause some level of disruption, but if it crippled your operations, or even hindered them to a major degree, it may be worth re-examining how you operate to ensure your streams are more resilient to such disruptions.
As noted, Facebook does have clauses within its terms of service which would effectively remove liability if it were to cease operations, so you wouldn't have anything, and legal recourse would be difficult in any such case. If your business is reliant on any one platform, it's vulnerable. The 2019 Facebook Blackout may serve as a good reminder of that fact.