Facebook deserves props for smart response to outage

A Facebook outage this week could have led to backlash from users, but the company's smart handling of the situation kept users informed - and calm.

The Facebook faithful are usually very quick to blast the company when the boat gets rocked - changes to the design, changes to the privacy settings, even just some tweaks of the news feed.

So I thought for sure that the world would implode yesterday when Facebook experienced an afternoon outage that lasted for a couple of hours, not only affecting visitors to the main site but also those "Like" buttons that are connected to Facebook from third-party sites across the Web.

But that didn't happen - at all.

On the contrary, the users have been pretty good about the whole thing. Sure, there were a fair number of tweets that hinted that an outage had something to do with the pending release of The Social Network movie - but that theory never really resonated across Twitter. In fact, when the site came back up, there didn't seem to be any chatter - at least among my network of friends - about the outage.

I give credit for the no-outrage response to Facebook itself for being transparent and forthcoming on its Twitter feed about the problems, just as it had been the day before when a problem with a third-party networking provider caused some site problems.

When the site first started experiencing problems, the company turned to Twitter:

The company's explanation was technical but was also apologetic right out of the gate. That goes a long way. It read:

Early today Facebook was down or unreachable for many of you for approximately 2.5 hours. This is the worst outage we’ve had in over four years, and we wanted to first of all apologize for it. We also wanted to provide much more technical detail on what happened and share one big lesson learned.

The company did what every company out there should be doing when it comes across a tough situation: diffuse the situation by being forthcoming, open and transparent. So many companies clam up when things go wrong but that doesn't keep customers - and bloggers - from turning to the Internet with their own conspiracy theories and FUD that isn't necessarily accurate.

By issuing two simple tweets to keep the user base informed and posting a follow-up explanation, the company prevented a negative publicity hit and actually, judging by the comments to its blog post (see below), may have prompted some sympathy from users.

Talk about turning lemons into lemonade.

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