Outage WhatsApp after deal with Facebook – some lessons to learn

What is “WhatsApp”?

WhatsApp is a cross-platform instant messaging service developed by WhatsApp Inc.  To enable the application (mainly on smartphones), one needs to have a subscription for this closed source software (also known as proprietary software).  It operates on several operating systems namely Android, iOS, Blackberry OS & 10, Nokia Asha platform, Windows Phone and Symbian.

What happened?

WhatsApp, the newly acquired showpiece of Facebook has experienced an outage.  The downtime took more than three hours.  The messages WhatsApp tweeted, were “sorry, we currently experiencing server issues.  we hope to be back up and recoverd shortly”(sic) and  “WhatsApp service has been restored.  We are  so sorry for the downtime …” (sic).


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge






Just to be informed and to have an idea of the range, Facebook has spent 19 billion dollars on the acquisition of WhatsApp.

What could we learn of this outage?

  1. One should expect that when a server issue is at hand at WhatsApp that enough redundancy is in place to overcome such problems.  Apparently, even big companies are not impervious to such mishaps.
  2. This outage has caused dual damage.  There is the loss on WhatsApp itself because the service was not up and running when expected.  And there is the damage on Facebook because the image of its buyer, in this case Zuckerberg’s Facebook, is tainted.  It is of course not possible to exactly calculate the damage this outage entails.  But if a fraction of the 450 million WhatsApp users turn towards other social media, they profit from this misfortune.  Think of the advertising WhatsApp missed.  The second calamity is more difficult to calculate but Zuckerberg will probably be haunted with it, just as Bill Gates is still haunted with BSoD (Blue Screen of Death) on 20 April 1998.  It is even part of the world’s collective memory.
  3. The poor communication that went along with this incident, was not examplary.  The communication was short and simple.  But in this particular case, this was presumably not the best course of action.  Some handles can be apllied, when confronted with damage communication:
    • Disclose fully – everything that can come out, will eventually come out.  Tell everything
    • Address your audience – Focus on them because they are your selling proposition for the future.
    • Do not worsen the situation – Try to succumb the quick responses and first estimate the impact your communication can have
    • Details matter – Tough questions can come along, thus know you stuff before communicating about the problem
    • Know’s and don’t know’s – If things are not clear yet, tell it and certainly communicate what will be done to fix the issue
    • First come, first serve – Try to be ahead of your customers and tell there’s something wrong before they do
    • Be in charge – During a crisis someone else may try to take your place in the communication (e.g. rival companies), prevent this from happening
    • Keep the thread going – Repeat the entire story.  This prevents other from misinforming your customers, your company remains in the spotlight (be it due to a mishap) and this keeps your customers close to your product/service.


Some funny images below could be found on the internet concerning the outage.

Server room WhatsApp

Facebook brings WhatsApp downFacebook brings WhatsApp down2 WhatsApp’s server room (1) – Zuckerberg’s reaction on the deal (2) – What Zuckerberg does with WhatsApp (3)




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