Facebook’s Crash Highlights The Need for Decentralized Social Platforms
Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp went down for hours yesterday, disrupting the lives of billions of people and thousands of companies worldwide that depend on their apps for chatting and business. Consequently, Facebook shares plunged by around 5%, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly lost over $7 billion in net worth.
Meanwhile, some crypto enthusiasts pointed out the incident as an example of the weaknesses of centralized services and underscored the need for decentralized alternatives.
Why Facebook and Its Family of Apps Went Down
Facebook and its family of apps—Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus—all went offline for over 6 hours on Monday. The services fell off the face of the internet at 15:40 UTC and came back online by 21:55 UTC. Ironically, Facebook used Twitter, a rival social platform, to announce the news:
“Our engineering teams have learned that configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centers caused issues that interrupted this communication. This disruption to network traffic had a cascading effect on the way our data centers communicate, bringing our services to a halt.”
However, some researchers argue the shortage might have been as a result of DNS (Domain Name System) mishaps. In simple terms, DNS translates human-readable domain names (facebook.com) to machine-readable IP addresses. “Facebook’s outage appears to be caused by DNS; however that’s a just symptom of the problem,” says Troy Mursch, Chief Research Officer at Bad Packets LLC.
Nevertheless, considering Facebook has already been under fire by a whistle-blower recently, and before that by US officials, the outage has only deteriorated the company’s position. Within the first few hours of the outage, Facebook stock plunged by around 5%, wiping out over $40 billion from the company’s market cap.
Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Facebook, who owns a 14% stake in the company, lost over $7 billion from his net worth as shares plummeted. Subsequently, Forbes real-time billionaires list downgraded Zuckerberg to sixth position, putting him behind Bill Gates and Larry Ellison. Notably, Zuckerberg has lost nearly $19 billion of wealth since September 13, when a whistle-blower made claims that the platform “encourages hate speech for profit”.
Crypto Advocates Ask for Decentralized Alternatives
The recent outage has prompted a number of crypto advocates to highlight the need for decentralized networks that run on a blockchain. With distributed, user-run networks, blockchain offers a working alternative to centralized systems. More importantly, with blockchain, there is a limited risk of failure or censorship.
Ryan Selkis, founder of blockchain analysis firm Messari, also took to Twitter to bring up even a more crucial point. Selkis argued that if a centralized social media platform that has invested billions in security fails, then CBDCs would fail even easier.
Selkis added that “crypto’s anti-fragile design is the only path forward.” Being of the same mind as Selkis, Matthew Gould, founder and CEO at Unstoppable Domains, said:
“Today’s total collapse of Facebook and Instagram, among other apps, illustrates the problem with centralization. On the decentralized web, or Web 3.0, it would make it easier for users to port their data and contacts over to other services, as they wouldn’t be dependent on Facebook or a Facebook login to contact their friends and family or use their favorite apps.”
Decentralized Social Networks
As crypto and blockchain continue to grow in popularity, a number of crypto proponents have talked about the need for decentralized social platforms. For instance, back in July, Aave CEO Stani Kulechov announced plans to build Twitter on Ethereum. In an interview with Decrypt, he said:
“We believe that content creators should own their audiences in a permissionless fashion, where anyone can build new user experiences by using the same on-chain social graph and data.”
However, crypto enthusiasts don’t have to wait for Aave to launch its decentralized Twitter. Currently, there are a number of decentralized social networks out there, each with their own unique features and functionality. Here are three notable examples:
- Diaspora: a nonprofit, distributed, and user-owned social network. It has over a million users and is not owned by any entity. According to its developer, “our distributed design means no big corporation will ever control Diaspora.”
- Minds: a blockchain-based social network that pays those who use it. According to its website, Minds has over 3 million users and has raised $6 million in a Series A fundraising round.
- Mastodon: an open-source decentralized social platform with microblogging features similar to Twitter. The app claims to have over 4 million users on board.
Have you used any decentralized social media platforms? Let us know in the comments below.