Facebook's Downtime And Why Protocols Are More Resilient Than Centralized Platforms

from the did-you-miss-stuff dept

As you know by now, much of the tech news cycle yesterday was dominated by the fact that Facebook appeared to erase itself from the internet via a botched BGP configuration. Hilarity ensued -- including my favorite bit about how Facebook's office badges weren't working because they relied on connecting to a Facebook server that could no longer be found (also, how in borking their own BGP, Facebook basically knocked out their own ability to fix it until they could get the right people who knew what to do to have physical access to the routers).

But in talking to people who were upset about being cut off from Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, or Facebook Messenger, it was a good point to remind people that another benefit of a protocols, not platforms approach to these things is that it's way more resilient. If you're using Messenger and it's down, but can easily swap in a different tool and continue to communicate that's a much better, more resilient solution than relying on Facebook not to mess up. And that's on top of all the other benefits I laid out in my paper.

In fact, a protocols approach also creates more incentives for better uptime from services, since continually screwing up for extended periods of times doesn't just mean losing ad revenue for a few hours, but it is much more likely to lead people to permanently switch to an alternative provider.

Indeed, a key part of the value of the internet, originally, was in its resiliency of being highly distributed, rather than centralized, and how it could continue to work well if one part fell off the network. The increasing centralization/silo-ization of the internet has taken away much of that benefit. So, if anything, yesterday's mess should be seen as another reason to look more closely at a protocols-based approach to building new internet services.

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Filed Under: bgp, decentralization, downtime, platforms, protocols
Companies: facebook


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  • identicon
    Owen, 5 Oct 2021 @ 6:27pm

    Facebook - Conservative Bias?

    <sarc>
    Is this going to be used as an example of "Big Tech's" inherent conservative bias? Because, if FB is down, conservatives clearly cannot continue to spew their dis/mis-information. So, clearly FB is biased against them!
    </sarc>

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2021 @ 7:52pm

      Re: Facebook - Conservative Bias?

      Facebook could stay up and it'd still ruffle conservative feathers. They'll still find some dumbass excuse to rat on - which is funny, because it's only thanks to Facebook that they've been able to spread their bullshit to start with. But that's a really dead flogged horse at this point.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 5 Oct 2021 @ 11:42pm

        Re: Re: Facebook - Conservative Bias?

        Well, the actual problem is not the platform, it's the audience. The far right were given a brief moment where they enjoyed the same access to an audience as everyone else has, and it exposed how unpopular they really are. Once the platforms adjusted and realised that they'd lose their userbase if people continued to see Nazis and Alex Jones alongside their cat pictures, they adjusted and hid them as requested. Then, relegated only to places where people actually want to associate with them, they've whined incessantly about the fact that they can no longer attract those audience numbers on their own merits.

        So, yes, feathers will be ruffled either way, because they're not after "free speech", they're after a guaranteed audience, which nowhere in the constitution or in common sense have they ever been entitled to. The problem remains where they're rather notably over-represented in US politics, but hopefully a combination of people noticing that and the tactics they used to get there will motivate them to vote to keep them out. Here's hoping for next year...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          sumgai (profile), 6 Oct 2021 @ 9:25am

          Re: Re: Re: Facebook - Conservative Bias?

          because they're not after "free speech", they're after a guaranteed audience, which nowhere in the constitution or in common sense have they ever been entitled to.

          THIS!!

          Whether the "blame" rests on platforms or users (and I think it's shared pretty equally between them), the fact remains easily visible for a sensible and rational person to see - if you act like an ass, you deserve to be treated like an ass. The fact that you can recognize that you are being treated like an ass says that you know you really could do better, yet you willingly and continually refuse to do so. That's the classic definition of doubling down.

          Welcome, poster boy, welcome. Welcome to the world of recognition as an Asshole Extraordinaire, where your image is posted all over the world/internet as someone not to be trusted, not to be taken as sane, and not to be listened to except as sardonic entertainment, good only for someone to laugh at. Thanks for the cheap thrill. Now, get the fuck off my lawn!

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 5 Oct 2021 @ 7:47pm

    Amusing things...
    All of their IoT control systems had no redundancy, some were unable to get into buildings, others were unable to access conference rooms to have meetings about what to do.

    They had a emergency IRC server for just such a failure... hosted on the main missing domain.

    They had people with physical access, who had no idea how to fix it.
    The people who knew how to fix it could not get physical access.
    Having played tech support more than once... how the hell do you fix the BGP by trying to remember the screens & giving instructions to someone remotely who might have only ever had to press a reset button once before?

    Then there was the InstaAddicts DDoS of Cloudflare, people using the 1.1.1.1 DNS server and all of them hammering F5 repeatedly just in case FB managed to unfsck itself in the last 3 nanoseconds.

    I have yet to hear how many 911 calls were made.
    (Why are you staring at me, people have called over dumber shit than FB being down... you know there were calls.)

    I expect thousands of lawsuits by friday from angry users.
    (1800Icantbelieveitsalawfirm needs work)

    Somewhere you know there is a Q adherent spinning a tale about how the 5G & Heavy Electricity causing FB to go offline when the power pylons melted down.
    (Yes I saw a screenshot and for the life of me I can't tell if its Poe or not.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2021 @ 8:14pm

      Re:

      It is Goddamn hilarious to watch so many failures of best practices happen at the same time. The horrifying thought is how many other companies follow the Facebook model of IT infrastructure.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 5 Oct 2021 @ 11:48pm

      Re:

      "I have yet to hear how many 911 calls were made."

      Oh, you know it was more than one...

      "I expect thousands of lawsuits by friday from angry users"

      I expect a lot of tired judges going "you're not entitled to compensation for a service you don't pay for being unavailable, plus (presumably) the T&Cs you agreed to tell you this anyway. Some businesses might have a genuine claim, with things like ads for that night's events not being seen by potential customers and a resulting downturn in attendance, but I can't imagine lawyers for a company like that not already having made it impossible to claim.

      As for the rest, I saw tales being shared on Reddit about how FB had lost their entire database and would never be coming back online - which were posted after FB was back online. There's no theory dumb enough or easily proved wrong enough to be shared on this subject.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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