When Facebook goes down it’s a serious issue: bored office workers are bereft of distractions, children are obliged to talk to their families, media executives cry over lost traffic and nobody gets poked … (no seriously, that still exists).
In addition, Facebook engineers frantically rush to get everything back online – but it wasn’t always like that. In 2010 when Facebook’s site broke down it could be fixed just by turning it off and on again, literally.
Here’s a history of major outages in recent years, from the serious to the seriously silly.
27 January 2015
The latest 50-minute outage was caused by Facebook attempting to change something within its systems which went wrong, not a cyber attack as was widely reported.
A Facebook spokesperson told the Guardian: “Earlier today many people had trouble accessing Facebook and Instagram. This was not the result of a third-party attack but instead occurred after we introduced a change that affected our configuration systems. We moved quickly to fix the problem, and both services are back to 100% for everyone.”
The outage hit both the site and apps, but impacted other services including Instagram, Tinder, AOL messenger and Hipchat, which rely on Facebook for logins.
1 August 2014
Facebook’s second outage in two months was caused by another server error, which again affected Facebook’s site, apps and sites and services that use its login system.
A Facebook spokesperson told the Guardian at the time that the company was “working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible.”
Skype was one of the high-profile services made unavailable for some users who were unable to log in during the one-hour 40-minute intermittent outage.
19 June 2014
June was a big deal for Facebook – its longest outage in four years, which saw the site down for 31 minutes and was the start of an increasing frequency of site issues.
Both the website and Facebook smartphone and tablet apps were affected, leading users to seek refuge on other social networks including Twitter and even Google+.
“This morning, we experienced an issue that prevented people from posting to Facebook for a brief period of time. We resolved the issue quickly, and we are now back to 100%. We’re sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused,” Facebook said in a statement at the time, failing to elaborate on what caused the issue.
The outage even lead to brands, including Nestle’s KitKat, to make jokes and poke fun at Facebook’s expense.
21 October 2013
Facebook’s engineers were to blame for another site issue, this time not an outage but a “read-only error”, which prevented users from posting status updates for more than four hours. The rest of the site was functional, but caused problems for at least 3,587 other sites, according to data from IT management firm Compuware.
“This morning, while performing some network maintenance, we experienced an issue that prevented some users from posting to Facebook for a brief period of time,” said a spokesperson at the time.
Facebook was estimated to have 700 million active users at the time.
24 September 2010
In 2010, Facebook suffered a two-hour disruption that was apparently down to a fiendishly complex networking problem, again caused by its engineers. The solution, however, was incredibly simple. Facebook turned the site off and then on again.
The issue was caused by a runaway condition at a “database cluster” of computer servers among the 500 sites that form Facebook’s worldwide network. In the end, Facebook’s head of software engineering said: “We had to stop all traffic to this database cluster, which meant turning off the site.”
31 July 2007
Only three years old, Facebook’s attitude to outages was slightly different than it is now. In 2007 the site was purposefully taken offline by its engineers.
“This morning, we temporarily took down the Facebook site to fix a bug we identified earlier today,” a spokesperson said at the time.
That outage was long enough for users to resort to MySpace, Bebo and the one-year-old Twitter.
Now seven years on, that kind of purposeful outage is unthinkable, but with a user base of less than 100 million users and having only been open to all over the age of 13 for a year, the site was a very different animal.
This article was written by Samuel Gibbs, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 27th January 2015 13.15 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010