Why Are We Facing Internet Outages More Frequently?


Facebook was recently hit with a major outage that lasted for around six hours. The outage caused major downtime for popular apps - Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp - leaving users wondering if something's wrong with their internet connection.


Internet outage

The outage was followed by Twitter outrage, where many users voiced their opinions about the service. Later, Mark Zuckerberg came with an apology video on his Facebook page, which was also met with mixed emotions. It would take Zuckerberg around 150 days without a break to read through all the comments that were left for him after the meltdown of the services.

The company cited a routine maintenance job as the cause for the outage of services. Facebook engineers had issued a command that disconnected Facebook data centers from the wider internet. Around 827,000 people responded to the top man's apology, which shows how dependent people are on these services - not just for passing their time but also for essential communication and business.

This also points to the fact that such outages have become more frequent. So why are people across the globe facing such internet outages? Let's understand in detail.

Millions Depending On Few Hundred Networks

Millions Depending On Few Hundred Networks

One of the major reasons could our reliance on relatively less number of networks and firms that deliver large portions of internet content. When one or multiple of them run into trouble, it not just affects their business, but thousand of other services that rely on them. Facebook, in this case, is used to sign in for many services and smart devices.

Similarly, when Facebook experiences hiccups, it creates a huge impact on the internet but also on the economy, and users. And, it all comes down to a team of few engineers to fix the problem that millions of users are facing.

History Of Major Outages

History Of Major Outages

Back in March 2019, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were hit by a severe outage for more than 14 hours. Other services including Spotify and Tinder that rely on Facebook login also suffered due to the meltdown.

In December last year, Google, YouTube, Gmail, and other Google services went down for more than an hour due to an "internal storage quota issue" that left many users wondering. As for 2021, the year has had a fair share of internet outages.

In June, major services including Amazon, Reddit, Twitch, Github, Shopify, Spotify, and many news websites crashed for an hour after an unknown bug was triggered by a customer at cloud computing platform Fastly.

The most recent was the Facebook fiasco that kept the Facebook services down for six hours. The meltdown has reportedly caused a $7 billion loss to Mark Zuckerberg.

What’s Causing The Outages?

What’s Causing The Outages?

Whenever there's an outage, users' first thought points towards a cyber-attack; however, experts believe that more often, it's due to a case of human error, since the internet is held together thanks to a complex set of outdated systems.

Internet scientist Professor Bill Buchanan believes the internet can be made more resilient. Rather than rebuilding the systems of the internet, we need to upgrade the way to store and share data, or experience more such meltdowns in the coming years.

Buchanan says the internet has become too centralized, where a lot of data generates from a single source. It needs to be changed with systems that feature multiple nodes, so one failure can stop a service from going down.

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