Facebook's downtime is over, but the damage they cause persists
October 5th 2021 on Dušan's blog
Yesterday was quite a day at Facebook HQ. On October 4th, 2021 all of their services experienced downtime lasting a little more than six hours. Billions of users were left with no access to their services, some with no way of contacting their friends or family. The reason? Supposedly an error in BGP configuration that somehow knocked their DNS service out in the process. Still the damage is done. But what of the damage Facebook continues to inflict to billions of people on a daily basis?
People have become domesticated, hopelessly dependent on their services to contact their loved ones, do business or even get a tiny sliver of emotional gratification. Make no mistake, this is by design.
In order to fully understand the scope of Facebook's encroachment into our lives lets take a look at their primary services.
- Instagram - Photo and video sharing platform. Acquired for approximately $1 billion.
- WhatsApp - A messaging platform. Acquired for approximately $19.3 billion.
- Facebook - A social media platform, their original product.
- Messenger - Facebook's own messaging platform, an evolution of Facebook Chat.
Together these services constitute a majority of one user's daily interaction with the rest of the internet. Instagram and WhatsApp in particular were both fully independent companies that posed a competitive threat to Facebook's business, so they acquired them.
All of these services run on shared architecture so it should come as no surprise that if something was to happen to it (like yesterday), all of them would experience downtime.
Needless to say, Facebook's popularity has made quite an impact on our lives. It's almost impossible not to use some of their services. People are still shocked when I tell them I don't want to use WhatsApp or Messenger to communicate with them. This type of vendor lock-in presents a serious issue to the rest of us that simply refuse submission. It's very difficult trying to convince friends and family to use something else (like Signal or even Telegram).
The problems, unfortunately, don't stop there. Facebook continues to treat its users like little more than data mines, aggressively stifling competition and mercilessly lobbying against data privacy regulations. Recent reports indicate they encouraged hate speech for profit.
Luckily there are some solutions. First and foremost, users need to be in control of their software, not the other way around. This is already in motion. Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) grants us with the necessary tools and legal framework to work with. There exist projects with the explicit goal of undermining the business of Facebook and others alike by offering either a form of proxy to their service and data or developing completely new platforms. Second, support tighter regulation of these companies, they must be made to obey the laws like everyone else does. Make vendor lock-in harder by supporting the break up of Facebook and other tech giants into smaller, independent, entities. Third and arguably the most important, refuse using unjust services if you're able to. Look for better, free alternatives and try convincing your friends and family to use them.
Enough is enough. Facebook must be made to understand that the only reason they have a business at all is because of their users. Therefore it stands to reason that our requests are not that far fetched after all. They need to treat us like people instead of lucrative business opportunities. That means stopping the shady practices mentioned above. But of course, they won't do that. It's far more profitable to their shareholders to keep doing this. I sincerely hope that we can one day look back at this time like a period of technological atrocity equal in scope and effect to the atrocities of days past.