The unexpected consequences of the Facebook blackout

Last Monday, October 4th, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram disappeared for six hours. During the European afternoon and the morning in Central and North America, the conglomerate of social networks that has three billion people around the world stopped working.

The fall of Facebook and all its services came in a black month for the company, which in turn is framed within a year in general in which it does not stop receiving bad news. From your massive data breaches, to how Apple-driven privacy tweaks are affecting you when it comes to your advertising business, to the Facebook Files revelations about how you looked to the side when you were aware of many. damage caused or, this week, the statement before the United States Senate by Frances Haugen, the former employee who leaked these latest revelations to the press.

Today we know that everything was due to a failure in the maintenance of the system -which we explain in depth here- and it does not seem a priori that there has been data leakage this time. The situation spawned a ton of memes, but it also gave us a glimpse of what a world could be like without the social media giant.

The forced experiment, still with many things to clarify, made us turn to other communication platforms on the internet and also other older ones, it seems that could make us something more productive, and left a hole in the company’s stock valuation, with Facebook shares going from $ 340 to $ 323 in valuation. In total, it is estimated that the fall in market value was more than 6,000 million, of which a large part goes through the assets of its CEO Mark Zuckerberg due to his tight shareholding control still of the company.

These are the data that five days later can be extracted from how it affected the world in general to be one afternoon without Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram.

A troubled river … gain from other applications

Twitter was the social network to which we all seemed to go to laugh at the situation and in part to seek information about what was happening. The official profile of the social network launched a message greeting “literally everyone.”

But laughing wasn’t the only thing we needed. As a substitute for WhatsApp, Telegram, Discord or Signal they triggered their activity. Replacing Instagram, TikTok but also Snapchat took advantage of the drop.

According to Sensor Tower, Snapchat usage increased 23%, Twitter 11% and TikTok 2%. Regarding possible WhatsApp substitutes, Signal usage grew 15%, while Telegram’s usage rose 18% globally.

All alternatives to the Facebook group grew during the blackout

However, this is not necessarily an indication that there may be a permanent change in user behavior. Facebook apps have proven resilient in the past, and the monthly active users of WhatsApp have remained stable even despite the reaction that occurred earlier this year due to its new privacy policy, when Telegram already experienced an exponential increase in use.

Pavel Durov, CEO of Telegram, reported that WhatsApp’s six hours of downtime resulted in an increase of 70 million users. How many will continue to use Telegram as their main chat right now? Surely many less, but any user could see last Monday afternoon how many of his contacts were added.

A more productive world without the Facebook conglomerate?

Photo by Kate Torline on Unsplash

At least in the people who work with the computer it seems that it does. Haystack, a service software designed for developers, tried to extract statistics from its users’ connections and calls to other tools such as GitHub through its platform. The result, 32% more activity than the average of the three previous Mondays.

This peak occurred mainly in the afternoon North American time and the European night. Throughout the day, Haystack observed that developer performance remained the same, but this changed significantly after 21:00 UTC.

In their metrics, they noticed a roughly 2.6-fold increase in the number of Pull Requests merging.

Due to the duration of these processes, the company estimates that this indicates that the real reason for this increase is rather than the developers They used the extra time at the end of their day to do some cleaning of many of their processes and put their equipment in order. Without Facebook or Instagram, at least there was time to do those kinds of tasks that are always left for another day.

Analog Calls and Comments

But beyond using other applications, another of the curious data that the fall of Facebook left us is how we go back to phone calls and SMS.

According to data released by Orange and Vodafone in Spain, there were 120% more calls than usual between 7.15pm and 7.30pm, as well as an average increase of 55% in voice calls during the hours when the service Facebook was interrupted.

Surely all this falls within the anecdotal within the day on Facebook went black. Mark Zuckerberg’s company has not shared metrics on the number of ads it had to postpone, where its true hegemony lies and what could affect the sales of many large and small online businesses.

But the truth is that the blackout of Facebook could not come at a more difficult time for a company that is seen more and more in the eye of the hurricane and questioned by all, although a few hours after we were refreshing the Instagram feed again.