Bug Reveals Facebook's Power Over the Internet
Technology Editor, CNBC.com
We just got a glimpse of how much power Facebook yields over the Internet.
Major websites—including CNN, The Washington Post, NBCNews.com and Yelp — along with more niche websites were taken down Thursday. When users tried to access the websites they were redirected to an error page on Facebook's website.
The incident, which according to user accounts lasted almost an hour on some sites and affected thousands of websites, shows just how entangled the web is with Facebook's platform. Basically, any website that uses Facebook Connect, the social network's function that allows users to log into third-party sites using their Facebook account login, may have been affected.
"Facebook seems to have an awful lot of influence these days and because everyone wants to be hyper-connected socially everyone is relying on them to have a really robust system," said Brian Blau, a technology analyst at Gartner. "Businesses are dependent on them."
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Facebook attributed the hijacking of the affected third-party websites to a bug in its system.
"For a short period of time, there was a bug that redirected people from third party sites integrated with Facebook to Facebook.com. The issue was quickly resolved," Facebook said in a statement.
But when CNBC inquired about exactly how many third-party websites were affected or how long they were not accessible, a Facebook representative said: "We have nothing more to share at this time."
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The fact that companies' websites could be cut off because of a bug on Facebook's platform and leave them helpless to fix the problem on their own is of concern to businesses, but because businesses are so hyper-connected these days, similar incidents are going to happen occasionally, Blau said.
Over the last 10 to 15 years, businesses have become "deeply integrated" with each other through APIs that companies, like Facebook, offer. These APIs allow businesses or third party sites to connect to each other in a user-friendly manner.
"If you're a business or if you're a brand, you want to make sure that your company has all the social network plugins, so you're a company that is doing all the right things and then you get hit with something like this," he said. "You do what everybody else does, but then something like this happens and you start to think about how it affects your business," Blau said.
Because of businesses' hyper-connected nature, companies need to be individually prepared to respond, he said. While details of the Facebook bug have not been released, Blau said one solution may have been better coding from the third-party websites.
Regardless though, bugs are inevitable. In the end it's really about how quickly you can detect the bug and fix it, Blau said.
"Today's businesses are integrated businesswise, and you know, it's really interesting that it's had this ripple effect. Companies want deep integration, but you have to put business rules around that integration," Blau said. "Once you make the decision to hook up with other companies, like adopt "Like" buttons ... you have to have your own best practices in place."