Last night the power of Facebook was put to the test. It turns out, that without even realizing it, a problem with Facebook can result in the overall crash of large parts of the Internet – websites we do not even consider to be related. This can (and did) result in a very unpleasant browsing experience. ‘Facebookmageddon’ or ‘Facebocalypse,’ or, in English, last night’s mysterious Facebook Connect error, meant that users visiting dozens of websites were diverted to a rather unfriendly Facebook error page. (See below)
Facebook said of the problem: ‘For a short period of time, there was a bug that redirected people logging in with Facebook from third party sites. The issue was quickly resolved and Login with Facebook is now working as usual.’ But in that ‘short period’ it effected hugely popular websites such as The Huffington Post, CNN, Hulu, BuzzFeed, Soundcloud and Reuters – all the thousands of users logged into Facebook whilst accessing these pages were rudely interjected and sent to the Facebook error message.
Many, many sites – including this one – use Facebook Connect. This means that (assuming you’ve signed in) whilst you are browsing UrbanTimes, you are simultaneously logged into Facebook, and can access certain Facebook features such as ‘like’ and ‘share’. Until the events of last night, I never paid much attention – if anything, logging in through Facebook is highly convenient and saves me time and energy filling in log-in forms. But after hearing the recent news, I was left feeling funny. A small problem with Facebook (admittedly one that was cleared within minutes) has the potential to effect hundred of thousands of websites – and as a result, millions of people. If a bug has the potential to do this, what kind of things is a ‘conscious’ Facebook capable of?
I’m not suggesting Facebook is a sinister institution with the desire to bring about the destruction of the Internet, but it certainly displayed a worrying level of omnipotence. Is Facebook a bit too big for its boots? Should it be granted all this power? With one billion active Facebook users, it all seems a little ominous to me.