WhatsApp outage results in a scramble for messaging alternatives

The news: Meta’s messaging app WhatsApp suffered a significant outage for two hours on Tuesday that prevented users around the globe from sending or receiving messages on the platform, per Insider.

Outage outrage: 70,000 reports of loss of service were filed with Down Detector, which tracks global outages, as early as 3 am EST. Sixty-nine percent of users in the US, the UK, India, United Arab Emirates, and Hong Kong couldn’t send messages, 24% had troubles with server connections, and 7% had problems with the overall app.

  • WhatsApp for Business, the company’s corporate messaging solution, similarly saw a spike in user complaints.
  • Meta acknowledged the outage was a result of an error on their part. “We're aware that some people are currently having trouble sending messages and we're working to restore WhatsApp for everyone as quickly as possible,” a Meta spokesperson told the AFP.

Is the grass greener? WhatsApp is the most popular messaging platform in the world, with over 5 billion downloads and 2 billion active users, per BusinessofApps. But it’s not the only messaging option available.

  • While the issue was resolved within two hours, many users are still having trouble sending messages. This has led to a spike in searches for alternative services.
  • Global searches for “WhatsApp Alternative” increased by 2,400%, rival app Signal saw a 138.09% increase in searches, and secure messaging app Threema had a 400% jump in searches, Digital Funnel told the Economic Times.

The overburdened internet strikes again: The outage was reminiscent of a larger Meta-wide outage last year that left 3.5 billion global users and businesses disconnected and cost the social network $164,000 a minute in revenue.

  • “The outage of WhatsApp highlights that global outages are one of the major downsides of a centralized system,”  said Amandine Le Pape co-founder at The Matrix.org, a proponent of decentralized communications.
  • “Centralized apps mean that all the eggs are in one basket. When that basket breaks, all the eggs get smashed,” Le Pape added.

Dark days for Meta: WhatsApp’s latest outage comes at a critical time for Meta. The company is preparing for its Q3 earnings weeks after CEO Mark Zuckerberg pitched his vision for a more business-focused metaverse.

  • A global outage of one of its most popular apps doesn’t bode well for a company that’s trying to expand into new markets. Investors could see this as a sign that Meta, like much of the internet’s infrastructure, is overstretched.
  • Continued outages are an opportunity for competing messaging apps to gain market share. But WhatsApp’s dominance in certain markets like India, where it has over 532 million users, will make it challenging for users to replace. 

This article originally appeared in Insider Intelligence's Connectivity & Tech Briefing—a daily recap of top stories reshaping the technology industry. Subscribe to have more hard-hitting takeaways delivered to your inbox daily.

"Behind the Numbers" Podcast