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Experts: Facebook outage signals need for redundancies

The social media platform, which is often used for e-commerce, upset many small businesses that could not sell their products for six hours and did not have backups in place.

Facebook's six-hour outage on Monday affected billions of users and ultimately, according to experts, highlighted a need for redundancies in e-commerce platforms.

The outage began around 11:30 a.m. EDT and ended at around 6:30 p.m. According to Downdetector, which tracks website outages, more than 14 million people reported problems logging into Facebook and Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and Oculus, which are also owned by the company. The outage was one of the largest ever tracked on Downdetector.

Many small businesses rely on Facebook for e-commerce. On social media and various blogging websites, small business owners complained that they were unable to process product orders.

Zeus Kerravala, founder at ZK Research, cautioned that as commerce moves increasingly to the cloud, outages will have a greater impact on small businesses.

"Companies should have a contingency plan," Kerravala said. While some products are too expensive to double up on, such as a CRM system, he said, Facebook's marketplace is not one. "Businesses should have some redundancies built into their strategy."

According to Daniel Newman, principal analyst at Futurum Research, there are many other social media and e-commerce platforms that businesses could use as backups, including Amazon, eBay, Shopify, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube.

Over the last decade we've come to expect that these platforms will work, and that they will always work. We've built robust businesses on other people's real estate.
Daniel NewmanPrincipal analyst, Futurum Research

"They all have search, and they all have promotional vehicles to drive revenue," Newman said. "Over the last decade we've come to expect that these platforms will work, and that they will always work. We've built robust businesses on other people's real estate."

Kerravala said that beyond collaboration and social media tools, businesses should also double up on cloud computing and file storage, among other things.

Traffic to smaller social media apps and sites shot up during the outage. Anonymous social network Blind had a 234% increase in traffic, while publishers saw a more than 40% increase in traffic week over week, according to Outbrain.

The Washington Post reported that Twitter and Signal experienced an increase in traffic as well.

Newman pointed out that companies that diversified and ran campaigns on those other platforms as well might have seen a spike in business.

"You might have been able to offset that damage," he said.

Santosh Janardhan, vice president of engineering at Facebook, wrote in a blog post that the outage was caused by configuration changes on backbone routers used to coordinate network traffic between data centers.

"We understand the impact that outages like these have on people's lives, as well as our responsibility to keep people informed about disruptions to our services," Janardhan wrote. "We apologize to all those affected, and we're working to understand more about what happened today so we can continue to make our infrastructure more resilient."

Facebook also apologized on rival social media platform Twitter for the "inconvenience" it caused, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg later posted an apology on his personal Facebook profile as well.

Kerravala, however, pointed out the irony in Zuckerberg posting about the outage while ignoring the other firestorm in which Facebook currently finds itself.

The outage came one day before Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee, testified in Congress about the company's mishandling of an internal study about the harmful effects of its social media platforms on teenage girls. She said Facebook favored growth over safety.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on the leaked study last month. Antigone Davis, Facebook's Global Head of Safety, testified before Congress last week and argued that the study was mischaracterized and not a "bombshell."

On Tuesday, Haugen commented on the shutdown, saying that, "For more than five hours, Facebook wasn't used to deepen divides, destabilize democracies, and make young girls and women feel bad about their bodies."

Facebook announced today that it will slow the rollout of new products while it evaluates the impacts of its products on children, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Maxim Tamarov is a news writer covering mobile and end-user computing. He previously wrote for The Daily News in Jacksonville, N.C., and the Sun Transcript in Winthrop, Mass. He graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in journalism. He can be found on Twitter at @MaximTamarov.

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