On Monday, October 4, Facebook’s servers, and thereafter everything that relies on those servers, were down for about six hours in total. If you are one of the 2.8 billion Facebook users worldwide, this is certainly not news to you. Facebook came forward amid the outages to say that the problem was not a hack, but that it was in fact self-inflicted; however, for a business with as much weight on its shoulders as Facebook, I don’t know what’s worse.
According to National Public Radio, a routine update sent to Facebook’s network traffic routers failed, sending a wave of errors through Facebook’s servers, including its own internal systems capable of patching and restarting networks. While tech outages have become quite a common occurrence in the digital age, last week’s crash revealed urgent flaws in Facebook’s server configuration.
Instagram and WhatsApp, bought by Facebook in the early 2010s for $ 1 billion and $ 16 billion respectively, play essential roles in communication and commerce across the world. Hundreds of millions of businesses use Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook or a combination of the three as their primary means of doing business, as the apps provide advertising scaffolding, customer relationship network and physical marketplace all in one. By the way, when Facebook crashed it took Instagram and WhatsApp away. The outage lasted nearly six hours, in the middle of the workday. As a result, small businesses on Facebook have reported respective losses ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Although that number is small compared to the losses of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself, who is sadly now only the sixth richest person in the world.
Social networking is a fundamental part of life in the 21st century, as it enables both intrapersonal and interpersonal communication and provides a platform for personal, group and mass communication. Social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter promote local and e-commerce and allow businesses to engage with their customers on a more personal level. These sites also provide wide access to information, journalism and art, and have proven to be extremely effective in highlighting social justice issues. However, in all its glory, social media has a dark side. We’ve all been lectured about Internet safety growing up, but maybe these are not the “outsiders” on the Internet we should be wary of.
The monopolization of social networking sites could be detrimental to the future of online communication infrastructures. As in any other market, competition is crucial in the rapidly changing digital world. Without it, social networking sites start to overlap and the quality of service decreases, leaving users with fewer choices and more vulnerable to security and privacy threats. Competition encourages innovation, keeps prices reasonable and drives customer satisfaction. In other words, it makes sure that the market is controlled by its consumers.
Social media have become part of our daily life and are therefore able to collect sensitive information about the behavior patterns of each user and their social circle. The more interconnected our networks are, the more information is available for analysis. This material can be extremely powerful, as it can be used to predict behavior both online and offline, and can be used for marketing or even propaganda techniques. Curious what Facebook knows about you? Go to ‘Settings & Privacy’ from the settings menu and find the subsection called ‘Permissions’ – here you can find some of the data that Facebook has collected from your searches, location history, advertising engagement and use of other websites or applications. Whether this information is used for marketing purposes only or not, it’s pretty scary. Maybe it’s time to start reading these terms and conditions?
Online social networks have become the backbone of communication in the 21st century. If Facebook’s monopoly in the social media market persists, consumers will inevitably lose the autonomy they hold in the digital market. After all, if you don’t control the market, it will control you!