In Depth

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

Tens of thousands of users complain after images stop appearing on the social platforms

Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp appear to be recovering from a major outage that has caused uproar among social media users worldwide. 

Website tracker DownDetector yesterday received complaints from tens of thousands of people, many of whom reported issues with images not loading on the Facebook-owned platforms.

Users in Europe, the US, South America and Japan were “particularly affected” by the outages, The Independent reports. 

Facebook claims the problems have now been resolved and that all three platforms should be running normally, but some users claim they are still experiencing issues. 

What happened?

Judging by outage maps on DownDetector, Facebook users began experiencing issues with loading images just after 2pm GMT yesterday. Reports of problems on WhatsApp and Instagram began emerging about an hour later. 

Facebook users said that images and videos were not loading correctly, while those on WhatsApp “noticed image, audio, and video files were not able to send”, The Guardian reports. Facebook Messenger was also affected by the glitch, with some people “unable to load or send images and videos”, the newspaper add.

The image-loading glitch hit Instagram, too, and proved particularly disastrous, given that the platform centres around photo sharing. Users who opened the app were prompted to reload images but then just got an error message.

Meanwhile, rival social media firm Twitter and Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud-based subscription service experienced a similar image display issues, reports Ars Technica.

The widespread problem appears to stem back to Cloudflare, a security service for website operators. Cloudflare was hit by glitches on Tuesday that caused thousands of sites to display “502 error“ messages to visitors - where a platform’s servers cannot be reached. 

In a blogpost on Tuesday evening, the US-based company blamed “flawed software deployment”, the BBC reports.

“Our testing processes were insufficient in this case and we are reviewing and making changes to our testing and deployment process to avoid incidents like this in the future,” Cloudflare said.

Are they back online?

Apparently so. Facebook tweeted an apology to users later on Wednesday, adding that “the issue has since been resolved and we should be back at 100% for everyone”.

Twitter bosses also apologised for issues on the platform, saying that the problems were “almost at 100% resolved” but that some users might experience “residual effects”.   

It appears that these effects are still causing headaches for a small group of being, with complaints continuing to be logged on DownDetector hours after the glitch was said to have been fixed. 

Has this happened before?

Yep. Yesterday’s outage may have been frustrating but the social media platforms have experienced far more severe blackouts in the past. 

In April, “millions” of users were prevented from logging into their Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp accounts after a server update went awry, The Sun reports. 

But the social media firm had experienced its “most severe outage ever” the month before, when the firm’s products were inaccessible for over 14 hours, the BBC says. 

And the reaction?

Despite the Twitter outages, some users still managed to post videos and gifs expressing their thoughts and feelings about the situation. 

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