Western civilization collapsed briefly yesterday when Facebook became unavailable to many users for periods of up to several hours. The outage, which the company hasn't deigned to explain, enforced an unexpected period of social media "cold turkey" similar to recent "no social media" experiments conducted by colleges -- albeit unannounced and obviously on a much larger scale.
It seems reasonable to assume that regular readers of this column were affected by the Facebook outage. I'm curious to know what the experience was like for readers -- e.g. were you annoyed? Positively enraged? Strangely refreshed? What did you do with your "non-Facebook" downtime? Did the outage seriously affect any of your personal plans? How about work? Please feel free to use the comments section below to post your impressions.
I'm trying to assess how much people noticed, and how they reacted to, the Facebook outage because I think it could be a good indicator of the site's actual utility and importance to users. In other words, most of our data about how people use any given service is based on observing ordinary operations, when everything is working as it should -- but you can also glean important information by gauging how people react when they are deprived of something.
For example, I've read a number of reports saying a lot of people moved over to Twitter, which would seem to contradict a recent statement from Twitter exec Kevin Thau that Twitter and Facebook are not interchangeable but rather complementary, because Twitter "is not a social network." But I can imagine Facebook refugees finding Twitter an unsatisfactory substitute.
The outage is also interesting from a business and advertising perspective, of course -- how is Facebook handling make-goods (in fact, are they handling them?). Does an event like this shake marketers' confidence in the social networking colossus, or is the outage viewed as an anomalous occurrence, a one-off that's unlikely to reoccur? Again, I'm curious to hear reader thoughts on these issues.