On Oct 4, 2021, the unthinkable happened when Facebook, Instagram, Oculus and WhatsApp (all owned by Facebook) went offline. Not just slowed down, but completely offline.
This was one of the rarest circumstances that has ever occurred and, of course, created lots of chatter around the world, plus allowed for a massive uptick in usage for competitors like Twitter and TikTok.
What really happened to cause the internet outage?
During the day, we had some of our Soulheart clients looking for answers as their sites also began to run slow. The initial diagnosis was related to the fact they were loading Facebook Pixels (which also went offline). However, diving into this further, we’ve come to realize it was more likely due to the massive 30x uptick in requests around the world clogging the traffic requests on the network we know as the “Internet.”
For the nerdy explanation of it all, check out this article from Cloudflare.
A shorter, technical summary of the great internet outage:
Every website is broken down into the following bits:
Hosting is where all your site files are located and it typically has an IP address associated (e.g. 18.104.22.168). DNS is where all your information gets routed from the actual domain name. When someone types your domain.com address in, the computer accessing will actually pull up the files where your site is hosted (the 22.214.171.124 number in the example above).
At the elite levels, there is something called a Border Gateway Protocol which allow the massive routers find your website. Essentially, it’s a massive spiderweb of connected information that processes everything in micro-milliseconds. You can type a domain in the URL bar, hit enter, and see the site you want within seconds.
When Facebook stopped sending out where their site and files were hosted, everyone started sending more requests than normal (cue refresh, refresh, refresh). And as a result, all the traffic across the entire globe began to see 30x spikes in requests which hindered the load time of sites everywhere. Some regions were more affected than others depending on the speed and timing of the connection.
October 4, 2021 was certainly wild and will go down as a massive case study for computer nerds everywhere.
The Practical Side – What we can learn from this.
On a practical level, we are happy to say that only a small number of sites on Soulheart’s network experienced some slowness. But all of our servers stayed up and active throughout the day without any outages. We pride ourselves in the custom server setup we’ve built over the years and at the same time feel for the teams at Facebook that encountered such a massive problem to solve on a Monday.
The web is increasingly complex, but entirely necessary. The massive internet outage just highlights why every company needs a team of experts at the ready when something goes haywire. If you’re looking for a company to make sure your sites stay up, active, and online, reach out to Soulheart so someone on our team can share more.