On March 13, Facebook experienced a 14-hour global outage, the longest disruption of services in the site’s history. As of this writing, the social network has yet to offer an explanation as to exactly what happened.
While the origins of the outage are still unknown, its effects on the larger social landscape are becoming apparent. In the same period Facebook was down, instant messaging service Telegram added 3 million new members.
What is Telegram?
Telegram was founded in 2013 by Russian entrepreneurs Pavel and Nikolai Durov. It allows users to send instant text, video, and audio messages; talk via voice over Internet Protocol; host group chats, and make public broadcasts. Notably, the cloud-based application offers end-to-end encrypted calling and chat. The Durov brothers created the service following their acrimonious ouster from their last project, the Russian social network VK.
Because it allows for secure communication, Telegram has faced controversy in some parts of the world. Since its introduction, the service has been blocked or heavily restricted in China, Russia, and Iran. The company is also heavily criticized for knowingly allowing the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to coordinate its activities using the service. Telegram has since initiated a crackdown on ISIL produced content.
Despite its contentious reputation, the secure messaging service has experienced remarkable success worldwide. In 2018, the company announced it had 200 million active monthly users. The firm has also raised more than $1.7 billion in initial coin offering presale funding to develop a branded blockchain platform and cryptocurrency.
When announcing his company’s recent surge in sign-ups, Telegram’s CEO also made an unsubtle dig at Facebook. “I see 3 million new users signed up for Telegram within the last 24 hours,” wrote Pavel Durov. “Good. We have true privacy and unlimited space for everyone.”
Facebook’s Other Recent Woes
For most technology companies, a major service outage greatly benefiting a rising competitor would be a major, negative development. However, for Facebook, it was just another Wednesday. Indeed, the world’s largest social media platform has had an extraordinarily rough go of things recently.
The corporation’s latest tailspin started after it was discovered political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed its user data in March 2018. After the scandal broke, Facebook experienced a historic stock wipeout. The organization has also faced public scrutiny for giving third-party firms access to private messaging data and secretly collecting Android users’ personally identifiable information (PII).
Facebook’s reputation has also taken hits for its apparent inability to curb the spread of misinformation on its platform, its mishandling of user phone numbers, and the bleak working conditions of its human content moderators.
The tech industry giant has also recently had less than positive relations with the government. The firm is reportedly about to receive a record-setting fine from the Federal Trade Commission because of its data handling practices. Moreover, Senator Elizabeth Warren recently called for the organization to be dismantled as part of her presidential policy proposal.
Earlier this month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg laid out a roadmap to revamp the ailing social media juggernaut. But, the company’s poor history on handling privacy matters suggests a true corporate paradigm shift is unlikely.
With its recent service outage, it seems that Facebook has reached its nadir. Only time will tell if the once-thriving technology platform can turn its fortunes around.