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Facebook Went Down – Did You?

September 24th, 2010

Yesterday, Facebook went down for about 2.5 hours. Thousands of sites across the web, seemingly unconnected to Facebook, went down with it.

Facebook hosts thousands of “apps,” including games such as Farmville, Celtics 3 Point Play, and the Bruins Face Off. For 2.5 hours, all of those apps were unavailable, which means a lot of lost revenue (through lost ad views and lost transactions) for their owners. Facebook also hosts “pages” for everything from the BBC World Service to Barack Obama and Radio Head – so for 2.5 hours, all of these pages, which provide information on everything from political rallies to news discussion and concert planning were out of service. Even beyond the walled garden of Facebook, there are sites elsewhere on the Internet that use Facebook’s login mechanism to authenticate their users – for 2.5 hours, every site that did so was down. And even beyond that, many sites host “Like” buttons and other Facebook social widgets, and for the 2.5 hour duration, the lucky sites were simply missing those widgets, while the not so lucky ones showed their user javascript errors, and some even stopped working entirely.

Facebook is relied upon my many thousands of sites across the Internet, providing a single point of failure for a truly astounding portion of the web.

Is that really a good idea?

The Internet was created to be a reliable network that would route around failures; any disrupted connection would be routed around. This philosophy was baked into the Internet Protocol, into how the backbone is designed, how companies set up servers in redundant configurations, and how the fundamental protocols work. For example, consider email. If the gmail.com server goes down, only its users are effected; if I’m emailing my friend @isobar.com from my @integralblue.com address, there is absolutely no impact to me.

However, lately with the rise of Facebook, Twitter, and Google, a few very important points in the network are appearing, and when they fail, they wreck havoc. Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about how we’re gradually eliminating the reliability and redundancy that has served the Internet so well for so long, and start moving back towards those founding Internet principles.

Cross posted to the Isobar blog – please comment there.

CC BY-SA 4.0 Facebook Went Down – Did You? by Craig Andrews is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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