voyagernetz logo 350 wide.jpg menu

CONVERSATIONAL MESSAGING

The Facebook outage and what it means for business communication

Oct. 6, 2021

Hanz.jpeg

Hanz van Aardt

VoyagerNetz - USA

Communication Outage.png

This past Monday all communication over Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and other channels related to Facebook experienced a complete outage. Facebook has confirmed that the outage was due to a router misconfiguration. This incident presents some valuable lessons when it comes to message based communication. I am going to focus on the following three things that I think come to mind when I think about the current state of messaging as it relates to the outage and what we can learn from it.

1) Single points of failure are dangerous

When the internet was designed by the US military one of the core objectives was to not have any single point of failure. That was an amazing concept and without any doubt contributed to the astounding success of the internet. I find it ironic but not surprising that companies like Facebook that were born on this network are taking an approach of centralizing everything within the boundaries of the company. This week's outage clearly demonstrates how dangerous centralization is and how disruptive outages can be - it also demonstrates the wisdom underlying the original core technical ideas that were built into the internet. Message based communication should be more spread out among different providers - but for this to happen we need open standards. That takes me to the next important lesson.

2) The lack of open standards in messaging systems is concerning

Another thing the architects of the internet got right is they built almost everything on open standards which allow one system provider to communicate with other systems by other providers based on the same provider. As customer communication shifts from voice to messaging we have to be concerned about the lack of open standards. For example WhatsApp messages require both the customer and business to have WhatsApp. Imagine if someone sending you an email from Gmail would require you to have Gmail to read it - that is the world of multi-channel messaging today. Failing to define standards will eventually lead to lock-in and will also place incredible power in the hands of a few super corporations. Rich Communication Services (RCS) is an attempt to implement such a standard but it is many years away from becoming a widely adopted standard - in the meantime my suggestion is that businesses take a multi-channel messaging approach which leads me to my third point.

3) Multi-channel messaging is complex but the best strategy for the short term

Until a widely adopted rich messaging standard appears (we think that RCS will become that standard) we will live in a world that exists around multiple messaging channels. VoyagerNetz Engage and similar products will help customers to deal with the chaos of communicating on multiple channels and businesses should avoid getting locked into a single messaging provider. You can learn more about the current multi-channel messaging landscape in our e-book The Rise of Message Based Communication.

Conclusion

It is clear that customer communication over messaging (conversational messaging) channels like Text, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and more will become one of the primary means of communication into businesses. Due to the lack of widely adopted open standards for this form of communication various closed standard systems like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have come to dominate the market. Closed standards in turn lead to a situation where the companies who own these messaging systems (like Facebook in the case of the recent outage) represent a single point of failure for these system. The article makes the following observations:

  • Single points of failure in messaging systems are dangerous
  • The lack of open standards in messaging systems is concerning
  • Multi-channel messaging is complex but the best strategy for the short term

Over time we hope that messaging will move to communicating by using open standards but as things stand today this is still a few years away - for now our suggestion is that businesses adopt a multi-channel messaging approach.