Last semester I deleted my Twitter and Facebook because I wanted to make sure my employers wouldn’t find anything disagreeable in my social network footprint. All of my online interactions have been either through email or LinkedIn, so I was entirely cut off from the most alarming 15 minutes of the decade: Facebook broke the Web. On Thursday around 7:30pm, some users logged into Facebook who opened up websites that had “Like” buttons were redirected back to Facebook and saw the dreaded “Error” page.
The glitch was both easily avoidable (opening another browser or logging out of Facebook), and Facebook resolved the bug. But as the Salon article points out, the Facebook network is so far reaching that it seemed to crash the Internet. I could go through my top 100 favorite websites and be hard-pressed to find one without a “Like” button. Well, that is with the exception of the Economic Theory of Networks Blog.
The reason why the “Like” buttons carry a special property on websites is because Facebook uses the buttons as nodes. It collects data about which companies and organizations are using Facebook and which consumers are clicking “Like”.
I believe the crash revealed three important things about our current social network.
- As far as large components go, Facebook users comprise one of the largest. The fact that this did not just effect small independent users, but access to major websites like ESPN or the New York Times shows that Facebook is clustering all of the larger components into one, giant component.
- Not in every instance, but certainly in this instance with a glitch, Facebook acted as a pivotal node. Facebook users could not access websites without being directed back to Facebook.
- Facebook is mapping the network. Facebook’s seamless integration into the core functions of other websites such as Chegg.com or LevelUp have made it almost impossible to not have a Facebook account. I say almost impossible, because I have in some respects taken myself off of the grid. And even still, I am likely traceable in traffic as a node without a Facebook account.