‘I was in a panic’ — for businesses that sell only on Instagram, Monday’s outage rang alarm bells | CBC News

For most of the billions of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram users around the world, Monday’s outage was annoying.

But for Holly Rockbrune, it was something much more serious. That’s because she and business partner Jenna Parkes use Instagram, the social media platform owned by Facebook, to run Jolie.tte, an online boutique selling French vintage and antique items to their customer base of 35,000 followers.

Founded in 2019, the venture has grown swiftly, and Rockbrune says it’s on track to make roughly $250,000 in net sales this year. But that came to a screeching halt when Instagram went down, because Jolie.tte operates exclusively on the platform.

From marketing and sales through to customer service, Jolie.tte’s whole operation went temporarily kaput around noon on Monday.

‘Everything shut down’

“When the power went out for Instagram everything shut down,” Rockbrune, who lives in Toronto, told CBC News in an interview. Monday is typically a busy day for the store, as they release new items twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays, and usually spend the day before promoting what’s coming up.

“We couldn’t post any of our teaser pics which is hugely detrimental,” she said. “It really is our sole means of advertising to get people excited to come to our online shop to buy things.”

Even worse, Jolie.tte uses WhatsApp — also owned by Facebook — to communicate with its marketing agency, and the messaging service was offline for much of the day, too. 

“When it first happened I was in a panic because I thought something was wrong with my account, like I’ve been hacked — our business is ruined.”

When it first happened I was in a panic because I thought something was wrong with my account, like I’ve been hacked — our business is ruined.– Holly Rockbrune, Jolie.tte co-owner

Things came back online by the end of the day Monday, but for Rockbrune, the experience was eye opening.

“If it were to be longer term, if it was down for several days or a week, we’d have no means of communication with our customers,” she said.

“It stressed me. I started thinking ‘how can we reach these customers?’ and I don’t really have a great answer for it.”

Jolie.tte’s owners weren’t the only ones stressed by the outage.

Facebook posted numerous apologies on various platforms for the interruption, blaming “configuration changes” it made on the routers that co-ordinate network traffic between the company’s data centres.

While the company isn’t giving specifics as to what happened, experts say Facebook somehow managed to completely wipe out its presence on Domain Name System or DNS servers, the databases that allow users who type in addresses like facebook.com to be sent to the correct websites.

Analysts say the hours-long outage of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp yesterday cost the company more than $100 million in lost ad revenue — and a lot more reputationally. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Disruption cost Facebook

Whatever happened, it wasn’t just bad for businesses like Jolie.tte. It cost Facebook some serious coin, too.

The company’s shares were already slumping Monday morning after the airing of an explosive 60 Minutes interview with a company whistleblower suggested the company knows how complicit it is in spreading misinformation, and actively encourages it because it compels people to spend more time on the platform.

Then, word of the outage caused the stock sell off to pick up steam, with the company’s shares down more than five per cent at the close of trading Monday.

Morningstar analyst Ali Mogharabi, who covers the company, said in a note to clients on Tuesday that the outage likely cost Facebook between $110 million and $120 million in lost advertising revenue, because ads weren’t loading during the outage.

“People and businesses around the world rely on us every day to stay connected,” Facebook said. 

“We understand the impact outages like these have on people’s lives, and our responsibility to keep people informed about disruptions to our services. We apologize to all those affected, and we’re working to understand more about what happened today so we can continue to make our infrastructure more resilient.”

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