The Facebook Shutdown

What caused Facebook services to shut down?

On 4 October, the Facebook website, other apps and services of the company, such as WhatsApp and Instagram, went down for about six hours. While many social media and online services end up having some extended periods of downtime once in a while, this was one of the longest downtimes from a big company in the last few years, and one which affected more than one service. As many people depend on those services in order to talk to other people and earn their living, this obviously caused some discontent, which people expressed through platforms such as Twitter, Telegram and Discord, as they aren’t part of Facebook and so remained online.

A lot of theories were thrown around trying to explain what happened, but Facebook only released information on it some time after their services had returned. So, what was the problem?

Border Gateway Protocol

Before we get into that, it’s important to have a bit of a background on how the internet works.

The internet is a very large network, so it’s very easy to get lost in it while trying to find a website to connect to. IP addresses exist to help that, assigning an identification to every device connected to the internet. While for home devices those addresses change with time, for websites and web services they don’t change. And they can also have an address associated with them that’s easier to remember, such as “facebook.com”, which are called “domains”. There are servers which translate those domains to IP addresses, allowing you to connect to the server you’re looking for, and they’re called DNS servers.

However, while the IP address gives you the server you need to reach, how do you reach it?

The internet is basically a huge network of ISPs, which are in turn connected to the web servers that you are trying to reach. In order to reach it, you launch a request from your computer that traverses the maze of ISPs until it gets there. Your computer always tries to get through the shortest route, and the ISPs help you by laying it out to you, and do so by means of a Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), that is, the protocol that defines what it tells to packets that are on their “border”.

Web servers also have their own BGPs, and these tell you if you reached the right place and if you sent the correct packet using the right protocol, and they also tell the ISPs about their IP so that they can associate the physical location to the IP and guide packets towards it.

So, what happened?

The official reason released by Facebook was that the outage was a result of a faulty network configuration in their routers. While it’s a true reason and enough for the average internet user, it is also very vague.

Network specialists theorize that what happened was that someone in the company changed the configuration of Facebook’s BGP to a faulty one, and either the router or the employee did not notice that it had errors, and as a result the BGP stopped working entirely. Consequently, the BGP also stopped announcing the server’s IP to the DNS and ISPs, which in turn led them to think that the server was offline, so they couldn’t route people to it. Consequently, no one could reach the Facebook servers anymore.

It’s likely that that faulty configuration also affected the internal BGP, the BGP which guides computers to other computers inside Facebook’s private network, which also prevented employees from getting into the building, as you may have heard about.

Going forward

Of course, this will serve as a warning to Facebook and other companies that depend on server reliability that big accidents can still happen. Measures will be taken to ensure that mistakes like these are less likely, such as by increasing checking and security measures before any possibly breaking change, and things will continue as normal.

Influencer Saturation: how do Leaders stand out in their Niche?

Rise of influencers

The rise of social media gave a voice and a following to thousands of people worldwide. Soon, their influence on people became noticeable, and they began to be known as “influencers”. It didn’t take long for this new occupation to be monetized through various mobile apps, and with that hundreds of thousands of people tried to follow their path and live off social media.

And, of course, it didn’t take long for that to become too many people. Now there are millions of influencers spread out throughout the world, in many kinds of niches and with wildly different amounts of followers and influence power.

At the same time, many brands started drifting away from influencer sponsoring. Falsifying follower count, low engagement and distrust of sponsored content by their fans led to many losses in the marketing field for many different companies.

Even so, many people seem to continue to be successful, and from time to time a new influencer star manages to rise somewhere. How do they do that? Let’s talk a bit about that.

Steady Quality Content

Maintaining a steady stream of quality content is of course the bare minimum an influencer should do. In a time where there are hundreds of other people competing for attention in the same niche, this becomes especially critical.

Also, it is important to stress the need for quality content. People know when something is low effort and was made just to fill the void. People know when they scrambled out something just to satisfy their sponsors. Whatever they do, quality has to come first.

Being an influencer isn’t just about having a good time on social media and getting paid for it. It is a responsibility. People expect something from you, and you shouldn’t let them down, much less play with their feelings.

Getting Intimate

The most important difference between an influencer and other celebrities is the level of intimacy.

Celebrities are unreachable. Their relationship to their fans tends to be quite distant. Many don’t even have social media accounts. What makes them famous is what they do: they are great actors, musicians, entrepreneurs, that kind of thing.

Influencers, on the other hand, get their fame exactly by being close to their followers. They talk about their daily life, their job, the things they do in their free time, and that way they create a special relationship with their fans.

And people like that. People want to feel connected to their idols. People want to talk to them as if they were talking to a close friend. They want to relate to what they see and hear.

Engaging your followers, especially engaging directly (such as by talking to them on Twitter), is an incredibly powerful way of keeping them close to you

Being Honest

And it is also very important for that intimacy to be honest. Not forced or faked out just to get money, but coming out of the true desire to connect with people.

You may be a great actor and manage to fake that out for some time, but one day the truth may come out and ruin your life. You’ve probably seen many examples of similar cases that end up destroying the influencers’ careers.

This also means that influencers can’t just go out and accept any sponsorship proposal given to them. They have to stay true to their followers, to their own opinions and to their niche. They can’t just advertise a product of questionable quality and expect to be taken seriously after their followers report the problems they had with them. Products that they wasted money on because they endorsed them.

Even more, being true and honest is a quality that companies are looking for today, even more than having hundreds of thousands of followers. The key to being an influencer isn’t having a huge following, it’s actually influencing people. Managing to make most of some hundreds of people engage with your brand for a small cost is much better than paying thousands of dollars to get no return at all.

Even though there are hundreds of thousands of influencers out there, quality influencing is now seen as more of a quality-over-quantity occupation, rather than quantity only. And from this comes the opportunity to stand out among your peers and be successful, even while having a small, but loyal, following.