A major Facebook fuckup crashed numerous iOS apps that rely on its framework for various purposes throughout Friday morning. Per The Next Web, the affected applications include everything from Spotify and Pinterest to Venmo, Tinder, Apple’s App Store, and even competing social media services like Twitter. It appears to have been resolved, though the screwup persisted for hours.
According to 9to5Mac, the underlying bug appears to be quite similar to one in May that caused any apps that rely on the Facebook SDK for logins, analytics, and advertising functions to crash upon launch. The site reported that the core problem appears to be “improper handling of unexpected invalid data” caused by Facebook servers transmitting data in the wrong format to clients; the client applications don’t know how to handle the improperly formatted data and give up the ghost.
According to a bug tracking report on Facebook’s Github page, errors started as early as 10:53 p.m. PT on Thursday and persisted well into Friday morning. Down Detector listed thousands of people as unable to access services, including Spotify, Pinterest, Waze, Venmo, and Tinder.
Because this was a server side issue, individual apps didn’t need to update anything, and it was possible to avoid the bug using inconvenient workarounds like disabling wifi or 4G, which would prevent communications with Facebook servers. As the Verge noted, another possible fix was using Lockdown Apps, a VPN that blocks trackers and Facebook’s SDK from working.
Incidents like these tend to highlight the reliance of a wide swathe of the internet economy on a handful of giant companies. In June 2019, an outage at Google lasted for hours and knocked out nearly every one of the company’s cloud-based tools, including Gmail, Drive, Docs, Hangouts, and Voice, while causing major problems with third-party apps relying on Google Cloud, including Discord, Snapchat, and Vimeo. Another Facebook outage earlier that year, blamed on a server misconfiguration, prevented access to Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger, in turn having a major impact on companies relying on its ad network to generate revenue.