The three apps – which are all owned by Facebook, and run on shared infrastructure – all completely stopped working shortly before 5pm.
Other products that are part of the same family of apps, such as Facebook Workplace, also stopped working.
Visitors to the Facebook website simply saw an error page or a message that their browser could not connect. The WhatsApp and Instagram apps continued to work, but did not show new content, including any messages sent or received during the problems.
Facebook’s outages happen relatively rarely but tend to be vast in their impact, not least because they affect three of the world’s biggest apps.
The company is often cryptic about the causes of any issues, and does not tend to explain them even after they are fixed. In 2019, for instance, it suffered its biggest outage in years – and said only that it had “triggered an issue” during “routine maintenance operations”.
In a leaked transcript published in The Verge in 2019, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg note that such outages are a “big deal”. Any problems can often lead people to start using competitors instead, and noted that it can take “months” to win back trust and get people back on Facebook’s platforms – if they come back at all.