PANICKED conspiracists are claiming that a recent flurry of social media outages is a sign that the web is in crisis.
Facebook, Snapchat and Twitch have all suffered major mishaps in the past two weeks, sparking fears of an impending internet meltdown.
The SunFacebook, Snapchat and WhatsApp have all suffered major outages in recent weeks[/caption]
However, while the string of blackouts is indeed a cause for concern, there’s a far more simple explanation for it.
Speaking to The Sun, experts and analysts said that the outages are the result of tech firms relying on outdated and vulnerable infrastructure.
They’re also more noticeable to use than ever because today we rely on a handful of services for a large part of our online experience.
DOWN AND OUT
The string of recent social media shutdowns began on October 4 when Facebook was hit by a major outage.
It knocked California company’s services, including WhatsApp and Instagram, offline for several hours.
As if that wasn’t enough, Facebook’s suite of platforms went down yet again on October 8.
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The faults were blamed on technological errors. The company’s engineers are said to have inadvertently disconnected its data centres from the web.
Since Facebook’s outage, Twitch was hacked on October 6aaa, while Snapchat went down for several hours on Wednesday.
ITV Hub, Microsoft Teams, Reddit and mobile and internet service providers BT and Three have also been shut down in recent weeks.
The effect has been dramatic. Billions of people rely on services like Facebook not just for their social lives, but for their businesses, too.
The outage cost Facebook an estimated $100million in lost online advertising sales.
Widespread online blackouts are on the rise, according to Luke Deryckx, Chief Technical Officer at Down Detector, a site that tracks online outages.
“One of the things that we’ve seen in the last several years is an increased reliance on a small number of networks and companies to deliver large portions of Internet content,” he told the BBC.
Recent online outages
Here are some of the latest services to go down in recent weeks…
October 4: Facebook, Instagram & WhatsApp go down for hours
October 8: Facebook, Instagram & WhatsApp go down again
October 13: Snapchat goes down
October 13: Reddit goes offline for hours
October 14: Microsoft Teams hit by outage
October 14: BT and EE go down
October 14: Three hit by outage
“When one of those, or more than one, has a problem, it affects not just them, but hundreds of thousands of other services.”
People use Facebook, for example, to sign in to a range of services, including apps like Tinder and devices like smart televisions.
“And so, you know, we have these sort of internet ‘snow days’ that happen now,” Luke said. “Something goes down [and] we all sort of look at each other like ‘well, what are we going to do?’”
The outages led to claims on sites like Twitter and Reddit that the internet is “under attack” or “eating itself”.
Others said that the issues showed that the web as we know it is on the “verge of collapse”.
There were even false suggestions that Facebook may have shut down its own services in order to delete compromising information from its servers.
One user claimed on Reddit: “Money can be made back. But the chance to erase incriminating data or who knows what might be worth it for Zuckerberg.”
Another said: “Unfortunately it’s just down so they can remove incriminating evidence.”
Some netizens highlighted that the high volume of shutdowns is the inevitable result of a small number of companies owning multiple major services relied upon by billions.
One user tweeted: “The Internet is run by a bunch of inept monopolies, and maybe, JUST maybe, that’s a f***ing terrible idea.”
EXPERTS WEIGH IN
Inevitably, when a number of outages occur at once, people worry that the issue is the result of a cyber-attack, or internet meltdown.
However, more often than not it is simply human error coupled with the fact that the web is run on outdated and complicated systems.
Speaking to The Sun, tech expert and former Facebook staffer Will Guyatt said there was no reason to worry of an imminent web shutdown.
He argued that the systems companies like Facebook rely on must be updated to iron out their vulnerability to hours-long outages.
“The more paranoid among us reckon these failures are because the Internet is ready to collapse – not so, because in the case of the largest outage in Facebook Inc’s history – one poor engineer literally pressed the wrong button, and took the whole business down,” he said.
“However, at the same time, we need to urgently address some of the short cuts that have been taken to give us the super fast internet we’ve come to know and love -we’ve had outages over the last year that impacted thousands of major websites, when third party services failed.
“We can’t keep making such compromises by adding single points of failure that leave sites, or our connections offline.”
Analyst Jake Moore, a specialist at cyber security firm ESET, said the unprecedented size of companies like Facebook and Snapchat forms part of the problem.
“Large infrastructures tend to struggle with internal changes when the scale of the network has outgrown its original predicated capacity,” he told The Sun.
“As the internet grows exponentially, so do the problems that go with it which can wipe them offline for hours coinciding with eye watering financial impact.”
He also argued that the sites’ protection methods need to be improved to halt the onslaught of outages.
“The recent problems we have witnessed highlight the increasing volume of users and data held on a network which urgently needs to be addressed with better protection methods,” Jake said.
“The internet is now a bigger part of our lives than ever before and crosses over between platforms when people uses services such as Facebook to sign into other sites.
“This dependency highlights just one of the ways in which we are losing control of remaining independent as we hand over more automaticity to fewer big companies in charge.
“Spreading infrastructural measures across different internal and external platforms can help mitigate the impact and risk and must be considered to help with the inevitable ever increasing internet usage.”
GettyBillions of people rely on a handful of services for a large part of our online experience[/caption]
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