Social Networking's Big Fat Failed Week

Facebook and Twitter residents were thrown back into the dark ages before social networking this week, when hackers and server flaws made several popular sites unavailable.

A glitch on Facebook broke "Like" buttons across the Internet, meaning people couldn't brag about their latest harvest in Farmville, share their love for obscure bands, or say happy birthday to distant acquaintances. The service disruption came on the heels of a virus that swept through Twitter earlier this week, making the site temporarily a very hazardous place to visit.

In short, social networking had a crummy week.

With outages and hacks preventing tens of millions of people from accessing Twitter and Facebook this week, businesses may have hoped people would stop goofing off and get back to work. Instead, many simply turned to other social networks to complain about the flaws.

"While Facebook isn't working, Twitter will go over capacity (and MySpace remains unused). Some Americans will finally meet their neighbors," wrote one Twitter user during Thursday's Facebook outage. In fact, the phrase "Facebook down" was written on Twitter over a quarter million times in the 24 hours following the outage. And a Facebook post about the social networking site's problems received over 7,000 comments.

Clearly, social networking has become essential to many people's lives -- perhaps too essential.

"IMAGINE if Twitter, Facebook, and MSN all broke at the same time. We might have to actually get lives," wrote another user.

Others found the situation merely funny. "Facebook users are roaming the streets in tears, shoving photos of themselves in people's faces and screaming 'DO YOU LIKE THIS? DO YOU??'" wrote one Twitter user.

Robert Johnson, Facebook's director of software engineering, claimed that the site was only down for a few hours Thursday afternoon. "Facebook was down or unreachable for many of you for approximately 2.5 hours. This is the worst outage we’ve had in over four years, and we wanted to first of all apologize for it," he wrote on the company's blog.

He explained that the root of the outage was an unfortunate handling of an error condition. "An automated system for verifying configuration values ended up causing much more damage than it fixed," Johnson explained.

Earlier in the week, a Japanese teenage hacker exploited a security flaw on the popular micro-blogging site Twitter, which shipped around malicious code, activated pop-ups, and exposed some users to an unwanted sight: hard-core pornography. The only recourse was to keep away from the site for a few hours.

Masato Kinugawa didn't really intend to create the massive disruption to the service that he did. He initially thought the worm wouldn't do anything, writing on Twitter, "meh, this worm doesn't really scale. the users can just delete the tweet."

When the worm he wrote started spreading virally, he added "holy s**t. I think this is exponential: "3,381 more results since you started searching." After a few minutes, Kinugawa wrote "this is scary."

Faced with these and other shutdowns to their popular outlets, many users may be forced into the one social network they've been hiding out from: reality.'s SciTech section is on Twitter! Follow us @fxnscitech.