Monday’s outages on Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram are likely due to a glitch in the company’s domain name system, an obscure but crucial component of the internet.
Commonly known as DNS, it is like a telephone directory for the Internet. It is the tool that converts a web domain, like Facebook, to the actual IP address where the site resides. Think of Facebook as the person they can look up in the White Pages and the IP address as the physical address they will find.
On Monday, a technical issue with Facebook’s DNS records resulted in at least six hours of outages. When a DNS error occurs, a user’s web browser or smartphone apps can no longer navigate to Facebook services.
Not only did Facebook’s main platforms go down, some of its internal applications, including the company’s own messaging system, were also shut down. Twitter and Reddit users also said that employees at the Menlo Park, Calif., Campus were unable to access offices and conference rooms requiring security badges. This could happen if the system granting access is also logged into the same domain – Facebook.
The problem at Facebook seems to have its root in the Border Gateway Protocol, or BGP. If DNS is the Internet’s telephone directory, BGP is its postal service. When a user enters data on the Internet, BGP determines the best available paths that the data could take.
Minutes before Facebook’s platforms stopped loading, public records show that a large number of changes were made to Facebook’s BGP routes, according to Cloudflare CTO John Graham-Cumming in a tweet. Facebook has not commented on whether or why these changes were made.
However, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince tweeted later Monday that public data showed these BGP routes “were being reposted.” This probably means that the service is about to be restored.
Seeing @FacebookBGP announcements are published again. This probably means that the service is about to be restored.
– Matthew Prince ???? (@eastdakota) October 4, 2021