When something like Facebook drops off the internet, there are massive knock-on effects. For example, a website that’s meant to tell you if services are down, called Is It Down Right Now, struggled mightily under the load of people trying to see Instagram’s status. Cloudflare, a company that runs a DNS service (DNS acts like a map for your web browser when it’s trying to find a website and is also the likely culprit when it comes to major outages), reports that it had to mobilize extra resources to keep up with the traffic of people trying to load Facebook (or Instagram or WhatsApp) over and over.
If you need to check if other sites are down, you do still have options. There’s the venerable DownDetector, as well as Down for Everyone or Just Me (DFEOJM informed me that it’s not just me having issues with Is It Down). I’m going to need all of you to decide between yourselves how to split up traffic between these two sites, so we don’t crash them too.
Now, here’s the fun part. @Cloudflare runs a free DNS resolver, 126.96.36.199, and lots of people use it. So Facebook etc. are down… guess what happens? People keep retrying. Software keeps retrying. We get hit by a massive flood of DNS traffic asking for https://t.co/qq6U47Tjc6
— John Graham-Cumming (@jgrahamc) October 4, 2021
Of course, with Facebook down, we all needed something to do with our time. Twitter’s official account (as well as Jack Dorsey himself) was happy to poke fun at the situation, but every site has its limit. As a result, Twitter broke for some users too. The company’s status page says it had an issue with its API, which has been resolved.
In the hacking world, there’s something called a DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attack, where attackers basically pool together tons of computing resources and use them to generate tons of traffic to a website. If they’ve got enough power, the website will go down — and that’s very likely what’s happened with Is It Down Right Now, except instead of malicious hackers, it’s half the internet accidentally overwhelming the service through sheer combined will. I guess that’s what happens when Facebook’s status page goes down along with the rest of its services.
PS: there’s one funny side effect that comes from many people basically only using their internet connections for Facebook — many ISPs and cellular providers, like T-Mobile, AT&T, and more, have also been reported as down, even though their services seem to be working fine. But because people can’t access Facebook, they may assume the problem is elsewhere.
Update October 4th, 3:56PM ET: Added info about Twitter also experiencing problems.
Update October 4th, 8:11PM ET: Updated to reflect the end of Facebook’s outage.