Telegram adds 70m new users during Facebook outage

6 Oct 2021

Image: © Natee Meepian/Stock.adobe.com

Rival messaging apps Telegram and Signal have added millions of new users while the EU’s Margrethe Vestager sent a strong message to Facebook.

Encrypted messaging app Telegram saw a surge in new sign-ups as users of Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp sought alternative apps during a six-hour outage on Monday (4 October).

Telegram co-founder Pavel Durov said on Tuesday (5 October) that the messaging app added more than 70m new users during the Facebook outage, which saw 3.5bn users worldwide cut off from Facebook’s entire suite of online services.

Writing in his own Telegram channel, Durov welcomed these “refugees from other platforms”.

He said that Telegram experienced a “record increase in user registration and activity” on Monday, exceeding the app’s usual daily growth rate “by an order of magnitude”.

The boost of activity from millions of users seeking new ways to connect online caused another problem, as Durov admitted slower speeds than usual on Telegram in some regions due to the increased traffic. However, he also commended his team on handling this “unprecedented growth” as the app continued to work for the majority of users.

Signal, another rival encrypted messaging app, also added “millions” of new users during the Facebook outage. The company declared on Twitter that sign-ups were “way up” on Monday, while also wishing Facebook engineers the best of luck getting their service back online.

Signal, too, saw slips during the surge, with some people not seeing their contacts appear.

Both Signal and Telegram reportedly saw an influx of new users earlier this year when WhatsApp caused confusion and concern among users with a contentious privacy policy update.

Meanwhile, Facebook has released more details on the root cause of the outage. Writing in an engineering blog post, VP of infrastructure Santosh Janardhan said that the issue began during a “routine maintenance” job.

“A command was issued with the intention to assess the availability of global backbone capacity, which unintentionally took down all the connections in our backbone network, effectively disconnecting Facebook data centres globally,” he wrote.

“Our systems are designed to audit commands like these to prevent mistakes like this, but a bug in that audit tool prevented it from properly stopping the command.”

Seeing as this caused a total loss of connection, the error had a domino effect, making Facebook’s DNS servers unreachable, disrupting the internal tools typically used by Facebook to investigate and resolve outages, and disabling the usual means for engineers to access the company’s data centres remotely.

The sweeping impact of the Facebook outage on global communications raised red flags for legislators who have voiced concerns on the company’s dominance in this space. EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager tweeted that the disruption on Monday showed “we need alternatives and choices in the tech market, and must not rely on a few big players”.

Don’t miss out on the knowledge you need to succeed. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of need-to-know sci-tech news.

Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com