The week of social media and communication outages

May has started auspiciously for digital platforms. May 1st saw Instagram go down, on Wednesday, WhatsApp followed suit and now to round the week off, Twitter ‘broke’ in the early hours of this morning.

The news that Facebook is on the verge of reaching two billion users highlights the growing importance of these types of digital services. It it is vital these modes of communication, increasingly used in a professional setting, remain immune to IT outages. Of course this is easier said than done.

This morning, Twitter users worldwide were unable to access the social media platform for around 15 minutes early Friday. The outage affected most countries, with showing everywhere but the US was cut off from the social media site.

>See also: HSBC suffers IT outage

“The latest Twitter outage just underlines the challenges of keeping digital service running and performing. We don’t know for certain the cause of today’s outage, but more often than not these problems are caused by some sort of application or platform update. Bugs such as those seen by Instagram earlier this week are increasingly common,” said Dave Anderson, digital experience expert at Dynatrace.

On Wednesday evening, it took WhatsApp hours to fix outages around the world. The situation caused a meltdown on social media, as users tried other methods of communication – further highlighting the importance of these communication platforms.

>See also: Best-practice takeaways from internet outages

“It’s hard for consumers to understand just how difficult the job of software development is these days,” defended Anderson. “Amazon is known to release new software updates every 11 seconds and we could assume Twitter would be cracking a similar pace – releases and updates in minutes or hours. These are very rapid release cycles to fix bugs, optimise the app and make sure security is up to standard. The process is ongoing (even for a free service) but then one day, a new update breaks the delivery chain and everything stops. The media picks it up and users get vocal.”

“Pushing new updates through the development and production cycle is always risky, which is why testing and monitoring how the changes will impact the performance of an app is so important. At the first sign of a problem, the developer team needs to be able to take swift action and roll back and fix, or abandon the change if it’s looking like it will impact the user experience or ultimately bring a service down for millions of users. With Twitter only down for 15 minutes this is probably what happened on this occasion.”


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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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