Mike Stone

Mostly The Lonely Howls Of Mike Baying His Ideological Purity At The Moon

Centralization: It's More Than Just Facebook

05 Oct 2021

I think most people know that Facebook had a pretty serious faceplant today. It was all over the news. Even the non-technology news. Facebook has a massive user base, so it being down impacted a whole ton of people. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Facebook’s problems stemmed from something I like to harp on a lot: Centralization. It’s not just Facebook that was impacted though, and that’s because Facebook the company has centralized more than just Facebook the product.

So why did Facebook go down? According to a blog post by Santosh Janardhan, a VP of Infrastructure at Facebook, “its root cause was a faulty configuration change on our end.” That sounds like the understatement of the year.

The problem here is that this faulty configuration change didn’t just impact Facebook. It impacted Instagram too, and WhatsApp. WhatsApp is the bigger deal to me at least as in some places it has achieved a market penetration significant enough where it has become the defacto way for exchanging text messages. There’s rumor that the problem was compounded because this “faulty configuration change” also effected the badging system at Facebook so the people who were supposed to fix the problem couldn’t get into the building.

Who knows how much more was impacted that isn’t visible to people outside of the company?

All of this stems from the fact that not only is Facebook a centralized service, but it appears that an unhealthy amount of its infrastructure is as well. I could point out how decentralized services like Mastodon could never have a full outage like the one experienced by Facebook today without the entirety of the Internet going down due to some sort of global calamity, but it’s even more than that. What happened today was closer to the entirety of Mastodon going down and taking Pixelfed and Matrix with it, and then locking all the network access and doors to the buildings they run it. For something like this to happen in the world of decentralized services is inconceivable.

Day 35 of the #100DaysToOffload 2021 Series.

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