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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 March 2019

Why did Facebook, Instagram and Gmail all go down on the same day?

Overnight, Facebook suffered the most severe outage in its history, while email behemoth Gmail also went down

Facebook, Messenger and Instagram apps all suffered outages for many hours on Wednesday, which were reported across the globe. AP
Facebook, Messenger and Instagram apps all suffered outages for many hours on Wednesday, which were reported across the globe. AP

On Wednesday night, Facebook had its worst outage in history, with most of the social media platform's features unavailable across the world, and in the UAE, for many hours.

In fact, the whole family of Facebook-owned apps had issues: many of Instagram's features were down, and WhatsApp was widely reported to be very slow, with messages taking minutes, rather than milliseconds, to send.

People using the Facebook app were able to open the platform and see content, but not load fresh content or post comments or updates; while Instagram profiles wouldn't load, and feeds wouldn't refresh.

It all appears to be back up and running now, although Facebook hasn't yet announced the issue is over.

Why was it down?

Well, Facebook had to turn to its Twitter account to post about the outage, and denied the issue was due to a "DDoS attack". A denial-of-service attack is a cyber attack in which the aim is to disrupt the service of a machine or network, and is usually achieved by flooding the service with extremely high volumes of traffic.

But the social media giant didn't clarify what actually did happen: we will update you when they do.

Many people got a notification that Facebook was down for "required maintenance" when they tried to log in. But the message from Facebook also said "you should be able to get back on within a few minutes", which was not the case for many users.

At a Facebook talk at Texas's South by Southwest conference on Wednesday, Facebook's head of video products cracked a joke when his presentation's audio failed: "Today is the technical difficulties day for Facebook, I guess," said Paresh Rajwat.

The BBC reported that this was Facebook's largest outage ever, with the last disruption of this magnitude in 2008 when the site had only 150 million users. It now has 2.3 billion monthly users.

Gmail and Google Drive also hit with outage

In what is either a coincidence or a sign of something much wider, Gmail and Google Drive were also reported down, with an hours-long outage.

These timelines from Downdetector.com (a website that monitors services that have outages) show that Gmail's outage was over a much longer period, but was less widespread, and that both Facebook and Gmail were down during the same time period:

Gmail outage timeline from Downdetector.com 
Gmail outage timeline from Downdetector.com
Facebook outage timeline from Downdetector.com 
Facebook outage timeline from Downdetector.com

What did people do? Take to Twitter

So, what did people do with their forced social media break? Naturally, many turned to Twitter to complain, joke and employ memes.

We'll leave you with some of the best doing the rounds:

Updated: March 14, 2019 11:04 AM

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