Facebook Outage Killed Some Retail Sites’ Performance

    June 1, 2012
    Josh Wolford

On Thursday night, Facebook experienced a major worldwide outage that lasted, in some cases, for a couple of hours. Things have been less-than-perfect for users since then, even after Facebook released a statement saying that everything should be a-ok. Users were still reporting this morning that Facebook was either slow to load or down altogether, although things seem to have cleared up for most users as of the writing of this article.

Not only was the outage a problem for Facebook and its users, but apparently it also hurt some major e-commerce sites that sat “spinning” while waiting for resources from Facebook to load. It appears that sites that were affected were ones that connect to Facebook’s open graph, display the “like” or “share” button, etc. According to web monitoring company Catchpoint, sites with Facebook plugins experienced “massive performance and usability issues” during the outage.

Some of the sites affected belonged to retailers like JCPenney, Urban Outfitter, L.L. Bean, Teleflora, and 1-800-Flowers.

From Catchpoint:

The issue affected mostly web sites that have placed the Facebook code inline in their page. From an end-user perspective the “spinning hourglass” never stopped while loading the web page because the browser waited and waited and waited for resources to www.facebook.com to complete which they never did. Worst case scenario users might have seen pages hanging or functionality of the page was impaired.

By contrast, sites that loaded content before making third-party requests didn’t show any problems on the user end.

Here’s a graph that they provide showing how one of the aforementioned retailers was affected:

For webmasters, this kind of thing is a reminder that outages of sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google can affect their sites in a pretty serious way. Of course, Catchpoint makes a point to say that it’s more of a “wake up call” for site owners to be prepared and build their sites in a way that expects this sort of thing.

As far as the outage goes, many speculated that Anonymous may have been behind the attack. They responded via Twitter with an emphatic no:

Note: Anonymous would never attack Facebook, we have said this many times. Why would we attack a tool that many anons use to spread info?
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[h/t Business Insider]