What happened this week with Facebook shows the fragility of a monopoly that capitalizes on a large part of the interpersonal communications of half the world. Between the world’s leading social network and its sisters Instagram and WhatsApp, the empire of Mark Zuckerberg captures the gaze of more than 3.5 billion people every minute.
That giant bare his feet by accident and equated their solidity with that of mud. The global drop in service last Monday is not the first time it has happened, nor will it be the last.
It remains to be seen if future blackouts break this week’s six-hour record or if the scare is reduced to minutes. In any case, the economic damage is impossible to quantify, no matter how much activity figures are extrapolated.
In arithmetic terms, a quarter of a day represents, in terms of revenue, just 24 million euros, once the group’s daily turnover amounts to 200 million euros and 71,000 million euros throughout the year. In any case, the activity that is suspended due to the interruption is recovered as soon as the service is restored, as a pocketed demand. Likewise, the fall in the stock market so far this month is around 3.50%.
Almost exempt from regulations
The existence of oligopolies, almost oblivious to the regulations of other strategic sectors, reappears again when events such as those of the week happen. Politicians realize the need to diversify these tools to avoid global collapses.
In the middle of last December, Google suffered the disgrace of admitting that its main services – including Gmail, Google Docs, YouTube and Drive – stopped working, without mediating a cyber attack. The result was several hours of downtime for hundreds of millions of users and businesses around the world. In the same way, Microsoft suffered a fall of several of its Microsoft 365 services a year ago, including Outlook and Teams.
The ‘Downdetector’ platform, which detects, records and warns of website failures, leaves no one out of the game, including online referrals such as Twitter, Tiktok, Netflix, Spotify, all of them dominance positions in their respective sectors.
The chaos on Facebook leaves millions of people unaware of the latest status updates from those close to them, but it also shuts down the advertising window of millions of small businesses. In the case of WhatsApp, users rescue SMS or voice calls (with 150% increases, as happened in the Orange Spain networks during WhatsApp’s operative hiatus). More worrying would be the world’s dependence on clouds from Amazon, Google and Microsoft, which encourages Europe to accelerate its own cloud services through the so-called Gaia X project.
In the case of Facebook, the reasons for the fiasco are not fully known, although according to what has been pointed out, it could have been a problem with the DNS records.of Facebook, that is to say the domain name system, because the American company has not exhibited the transparency that could be desired from any listed company.
Thus, it has been speculated whether the attack was remote-controlled or if it was something accidental, such as someone tripping over a cable and disconnecting the shed. From within the organization it is always easier to commit a wrongdoing than from outside, but anything is possible. What is known is that it took much longer than necessary to fix the fault. They say that the technical teams called to put out the fire on Facebook were at their homes, teleworking, several hours away from the servers, in a scene that is difficult to accept in these times.
In the corporate blog, Facebook’s vice president of infrastructure, Santosh Janardhan, assured that the fall in services “was not caused by malicious activity, but by an error caused by ourselves.” Specifically, the blame for the damage lay in a faulty change in the configuration of the routers that coordinate network traffic between the company’s data centers, which disrupted the traffic.
This “had a cascading effect on the way our data centers communicate, paralyzing our services,” explained the manager. For his part, Mark Zuckerberg himself had to visit the engine room to see directly what was happening and then publicly apologize. And because there are always excuses for everything,
Because the upsets never come alone, just one day after the ridiculous Facebook blackout, a former employee of the Menlo Park company, Frances Haugen, detailed in a commission of the US Senate about the testimonies she had previously made to The Wall Street Journal and the program 60 Minutes on the CBS channel.
In short, Haugen accused the social network of putting its corporate profits before the safety of users by hiding seriously harmful consequences for minors by promoting social division and weakening democracy, among other evils. Senators now have the floor without conciliatory words being expected from the Menlo Park giant.