It happened again. Facebook went down in pockets around the world for several hours Wednesday, as did Facebook-owned Instagram and WhatsApp. The outage inspired the usual existential jokes—and rush to news sites to fill the void—but it also gave rise to conspiracy theories that hackers were the cause. As is almost always the case, those theories are wrong.
Facebook confirmed as much in a tweet, saying that while it was still investigating the root cause of its woes, it had ruled out a distributed denial of service attack. On the surface, DDoS makes for a reasonable enough suspect; as a class of attack, its whole purpose is to bring sites down. But assumptions that hackers would hobble not just Facebook but also Instagram and WhatsApp with a DDoS attack rely on a shaky grasp of what that would entail and how prepared companies are to stop them.
For its part, Facebook has provided vague guidance as to what actually did happen. “We are currently experiencing issues that may cause some API requests to take longer or fail unexpectedly,” the company wrote on a developer status page. "We are investigating the issue and working on a resolution.” That could indicate a wide range of culprits, from routine maintenance gone awry to a Domain Name System issue. [Update: Facebook confirmed Thursday that the problem stemmed from a "server configuration change that triggered a cascading series of issues." It has since resolved the issue.]
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