What happened to Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram?

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Facebook has apologised after it stopped working for users around the world for several hours on Monday.

WhatsApp and Instagram – which are owned by the company – were also down.

In a nutshell, Facebook’s systems stopped talking to the wider internet.

It was as if “someone had pulled the cables from their data centres all at once and disconnected them from the internet”, explained web infrastructure firm Cloudflare.

Facebook’s explanation was a little more technical.

It said “configuration changes on the backbone routers that co-ordinate network traffic between our data centres caused issues that interrupted this communication”. This had a “cascading effect… bringing our services to a halt”.

The internet breaks down into hundreds of thousands of networks. Big firms like Facebook have their own larger networks – known as autonomous systems.

When you want to visit Facebook (or Instagram or WhatsApp), the back-end system that allows computers to connect with their network uses the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) – a kind of postal service for the internet.

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