Taking Over The Internet, Facebook Style
February 8, 2013

Facebook Connect Nearly Destroys The Web In One Hour

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

Late yesterday afternoon, Facebook began taking over the web, snatching people away from whatever site they were viewing. Facebook Connect was clearly at fault here, as only those who were signed into Facebook and trying to access sites with the log in service were affected.

As these things often happen, the story spread quickly across the Internet, written about first by The Next Web.

No more than an hour later, Facebook had resolved the issue, telling The Next Web: “For a short period of time, there was a bug that redirected people logging in with Facebook from third party sites to Facebook.com. The issue was quickly resolved, and Login with Facebook is now working as usual.”

As noted by The Next Web, Facebook failed to mention what happened, what steps they´d be taking to make sure it never happened again, or even apologize.

Facebook Connect was almost immediately blamed for this issue, as only those who were currently signed in to Facebook were stolen away from their sites.

Users who were signed in to Facebook but visiting other pages with Facebook´s social integration running in the background were unexplainably taken back to an error page on Facebook which simply told the reader, “An unknown error occurred. Please try again later.”

Those trying to circumnavigate this error were unable to do so. Returning to the original page or using the back arrows to navigate resulted in the same result: Back to Facebook and their error message.

For those who experienced the brief problem, (some reports say it only lasted for 15 minutes) the solution was simple: Sign out of Facebook. Removing this connection between your navigation online and Facebook´s servers allowed for free and open web access once more.

Web sites use Facebook Connect to perform a number of social tasks. For instance, users can log into forums and Web sites with Facebook log in credentials. The blue Thumbs Up of Approval (Likes) are also powered by Facebook Connect, as are comment sections and sharing features. Unless a user actively avoids this kind of tracking, Facebook Connect tracks by default. Unless a user manually logs out of Facebook, the social network tracks their moves online. Active Facebookers and sharers alike no doubt find Facebook Connect an incredibly convenient feature. Casual or infrequent users, on the other hand, might feel a bit creeped out by the fact that their Facebook session doesn´t necessarily end when they leave the page.

Though short lived, yesterday´s Facebook Connect drama likely robbed some sites of page views, resulting in a loss of income, no matter how modest. Had the issue gone on longer than it had, Web site administrators would have been forced to turn off these sharing and social features in order to allow visitors to peruse their sites.

If nothing else, this issue should cause us to think twice about how much information we give Facebook and whether we´re sharing too much information with them.