A Facebook glitch briefly took down a large number of sites that use the social network’s login credentials on Thursday — highlighting just how wide Facebook’s reach has become.
The glitch lasted a few minutes and affected only those who were logged into Facebook at the time. But there were widespread reports of users having trouble getting to sites such as Gawker, CNN, Mashable and, yes, The Washington Post. When users tried to visit those sites, they were sent to a Facebook page that displayed an error. To get around the bug, users had to log out of the social network.
Facebook released a short statement after the outage, saying, “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.”
The company has yet to provide further information about the flaw or say how many Web sites may have been affected.
While the outage was a short-lived problem with a fairly quick work-around, some sites with Facebook integration may find it troubling that a flaw in Facebook’s code could affect so many users.
In June, a Facebook outage caused similar problems for many online retailers’ sites. Analysis from Compuware showed that the problems at the social networking service coincided with significant slowdowns at Web sites that have Facebook plug-ins.
Facebook has been aggressive about getting its social DNA into major Web sites, from social login functions to its ubiquitous “Like” button, which help the network spread its influence across the Web.
It’s an enticing proposition for Web sites that want to foster conversation with their audiences and maintain a large social footprint. But Thursday’s short blackout is a reminder that with all of the benefits of third-party partnerships comes the major con that it takes some control out of a company’s hands.
(The Washington Post Company’s chairman and chief executive Don Graham is a member of Facebook’s board of directors.)