Down Detector is a really useful tool for confirming it’s not just you and everyone else’s phone isn’t working either. Today, Facebook platforms including Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and even Facebook’s new app for RayBan Stories, all went down. It is the worst outage for the company since 2008 and at the time of writing is still ongoing. Not that I’m feeling it much given I’ve quit Facebook and deleted WhatsApp. But a look at Down Detector suggests it’s not just Facebook and that internet service provider (ISPs) are also having a global issue. What gives?

How Does Down Detector Work?

Down Detector is a really simple concept. The people behind the service have built a platform that monitors several places people turn to when something on the internet breaks. For example, amongst many other factors, they monitor Twitter for mentions of outages or mentions of things like “is Facebook down”. Combining these many sources of information and validating as much as possible, Down Detector then provides a graph that shows spikes in likely outages.

Just one event, like a tweet, can’t cause a spike. It’s all relative and as a result, usually pretty accurate.

But tonight’s outage has shown some weakness in this approach.

Down Detector Suggests Issues With ISPs, Carriers And Mobile Networks

A look at the Down Detector status screen suggests this isn’t just a Facebook issue. On top of the Facebook estate, mobile networks and home ISPs all show similar spikes in reported errors. Why is that?

Down Detector dashboard incorrectly suggesting ISP and network issues

Well, it’s very human to be honest. When your Instagram feed stops refreshing, you’re more likely to flick airplane mode on and back off again, or reset your modem. After all, Facebook spends massive money to make sure they continue making money through even the heaviest of traffic spikes. Facebook doesn’t fail.

So when Facebook does fail, people are far more likely yo blame their phone, carrier, mobile network or home ISP. That’s what you’re seeing in the screenshot from Down Detector. And that’s the one flaw in their reporting system.

A quick trip to Google Trends validates this. Looking at queries driving Down Detector in Google Search over the past four hours, “vodafone outage” and “vodafone broadband down” are Breakout rising terms. This means people are jumping the gun and blaming Vodafone for Zuckerberg tripping over a cable in the office.

vodafone being blamed for Facebook outage

Don’t let this take away from how useful Down Detector is. It’s still the first place I go when something like this massive outage happens. It’s just important you know where to direct your anger, if you’re all that bothered about watching some telly or chatting to your housemates!

Update: So, Vodafone is actually experiencing a real outage too though they do state it’s related to the Facebook estate outage. My theory is that people are rebooting, retrying and attempting to reconnect so much that Vodafone simply can’t handle the volume of network requests. Just a theory. What an interesting night.

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Founding Editor of Goosed, Martin is a massive tech fan, into movies and will talk about anything to anyone. - Find me on Mastodon