Skip to main content

Losing Facebook is bad, but losing WhatsApp is worse

Losing Facebook is bad, but losing WhatsApp is worse


What happens when you lose the encrypted messaging app everyone uses?

Share this story

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

In the chaos of Monday’s Facebook outage, it’s easy to lose sight of the company’s reach. Not being able to post a new photo to Instagram is an annoyance, but it's not necessarily catastrophic. Yet for WhatsApp users, especially outside of the US, losing Facebook’s encrypted messaging service is a life-halting change, and one competing messaging services were eager to capitalize on today.

In February last year, WhatsApp announced it had 2 billion users worldwide. Compare that to original flavor Facebook’s 2.5 billion and it's easy to see how many lives WhatsApp touches. It’s become the default method to contact people in plenty of countries, including around 400 million unique monthly users in India Bloomberg writes. That goes beyond casual communication, as well: WhatsApp is also focused on becoming a critical tool for business. The app already takes in-app payments in Brazil and India. On top of that, WhatsApp claimed in October 2020 that 175 million people globally used its app to message businesses every day.

With WhatsApp down, that means calls and messages to friends and family can go unanswered, customer service requests unaddressed, and vital organizing information undisseminated. The secure messaging app is frequently also one of many tools organizers use to lead demonstrations and protests (unless it’s blocked).

A WhatsApp outage is a huge problem for the people who rely on it, but a possible boon for competing encrypted messaging apps. The major players, Signal, Telegram, and at least in the US, iMessage, all stand to benefit when Facebook and WhatsApp fumble. So far at least, only Signal has taken a public victory lap.

The company wasn’t able to disclose specific figures to The Verge but did say that Signal was hitting levels of new sign-ups, “on par with January of this year.” The same month, I’ll note, when WhatsApp rolled out its controversial new privacy policy for business messages and Facebook at large came under fire yet again for the role it may have played in the January 6th riots at the Capitol. Telegram and Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Facebook is restoring its services and it’ll take more time before we can really know how many people the Facebook outage negatively impacted. For now though, it’s safe to say it was probably a lot more annoying than not being able to update your story.


Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Sep 25 Not just you

Emma RothSep 25
Rihanna’s headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

Apple Music’s set to sponsor the Halftime Show next February, and it’s starting out strong with a performance from Rihanna. I honestly can’t remember which company sponsored the Halftime Show before Pepsi, so it’ll be nice to see how Apple handles the show for Super Bowl LVII.

Emma RothSep 25
Starlink is growing.

The Elon Musk-owned satellite internet service, which covers all seven continents including Antarctica, has now made over 1 million user terminals. Musk has big plans for the service, which he hopes to expand to cruise ships, planes, and even school buses.

Musk recently said he’ll sidestep sanctions to activate the service in Iran, where the government put restrictions on communications due to mass protests. He followed through on his promise to bring Starlink to Ukraine at the start of Russia’s invasion, so we’ll have to wait and see if he manages to bring the service to Iran as well.

External Link
Emma RothSep 25
We might not get another Apple event this year.

While Apple was initially expected to hold an event to launch its rumored M2-equipped Macs and iPads in October, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman predicts Apple will announce its new devices in a series of press releases, website updates, and media briefings instead.

I know that it probably takes a lot of work to put these polished events together, but if Apple does pass on it this year, I will kind of miss vibing to the livestream’s music and seeing all the new products get presented.

External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.

Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.

Andrew WebsterSep 24
Looking for something to do this weekend?

Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.

A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
Thermae Romae Novae.
Image: Netflix
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.

Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.