Some Facebook users are running into an interesting bug today congratulating them on 46 years of friendship with other users. That's strange for a couple of reasons. Facebook isn't even 15 years old and some users seeing this message are far younger than 46 years of age. Facebook has not disclosed the culprit, but it says it's aware of the issue. "We've identified this bug and the team's fixing it now so everyone can ring in 2016 feeling young again," a company spokesperson tells The Verge.
While Facebook bugs don't often pique the public's interest unless they brush up against privacy, this particular one happens to come with a fascinating computer science backstory. Although not confirmed by Facebook, some people are suggesting the bug originates with what's known as the Unix epoch.
When everyone at Facebook starts drinking 16 hours early pic.twitter.com/0vrRPnctuM— Casey Newton (@CaseyNewton) December 31, 2015
Unix is an operating system underlying many of the world's servers, and it keeps time by counting up from zero at one-second intervals. The date that clock began, known as the epoch, happens to be January 1st, 1970 at midnight Greenwich Mean Time — or 46 years ago today going by Eastern Standard Time. Every second from that point on is known as epoch time, and this is why some gadgets may mysteriously switch to December 31st, 1969. So the theory goes that just as your digital clock can reset itself by accident, the time in which you became friends with someone on Facebook could accidentally reset itself as well. To New Year's Eve, 1969.
So this could be the social network's version of Y2K, which was the fear that computer systems' truncated date logs would make the year 2000 look no different than 1900. Although instead of potentially crippling the world's financial systems and disrupting communication and transportation networks, Facebook is just telling you and a friend you're both super old and should probably be having midlife crises.