In Depth

Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp down: what happened and are they back online?

Complaints flood in as millions are left without social media access for 14 hours

Facebook has suffered its “most severe outage ever”, with the social network’s products being inaccessible for many hours all across the world. 

The site, along with the Messenger app, WhatsApp and its image-sharing platform Instagram, experienced problems yesterday afternoon and “only showed real signs of recovery this morning”, the BBC reports. 

The outages meant platforms, which are used by millions of people every day, were rendered “mostly useless” for around 14 hours, the broadcaster says. 

Complaints running into the tens of thousands were posted on website tracker Downdetector, where users reporting issues with logging in to Facebook and its affiliated apps. 

While the services appear to be back online for most people, some users in Asia and South America are still experiencing difficulties. 

What happened?

Problems for the four platforms began at 3pm UK time on Wednesday, with users from the US, Japan, New Zealand, Britain and other parts of Europe unable to log in to the social media services, Sky News reports. 

Shortly after users began experiencing problems with the websites, Facebook announced on Twitter that it was aware people were “having trouble accessing the Facebook family of apps” and was “working to resolve the issue as soon as possible”.

This was swiftly followed by an influx of “conspiracy theories” that suggested hackers were behind the outages, notes Wired

However, Facebook claims that it has ruled out a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. A DDoS attack involves hackers using computer networks they control to submit “a large number of requests for information from websites” to overwhelm servers with a barrage of “traffic”, making them unreachable to the public, the Evening Standard says. 

The true cause of the outage is still unknown and Facebook says it is continuing its investigation.

Are they back online now?

Almost. Instagram announced on Twitter earlier this morning that it resolved its issues, along with a gif of Oprah Winfrey screaming. 

Facebook and WhatsApp also appear to be functioning for those in Europe and North America, although the two companies have yet to confirm that their services are up and running. 

However, users in Paraguay, India, Bangladesh and Argentina are still experiencing problems with WhatsApp, according to The Verge

Has this happened before?

Yes. Facebook experienced similar issues in 2008, before the company acquired WhatsApp and Instagram. 

The company had only around 150 million people signed up to its service at the time, which pales in comparison to the 2.3 billion monthly users the company sees across its products today.

How did users react?

As expected with a major outage, most users took to Twitter to fill the void with jokes at Facebook’s expense.

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