Facebook photos disappear for some

Facebook photos disappear for some

Summary: Some Facebook users are reporting that photos uploaded in 2008 and 2009 are no longer loading on the social network. There's no error: the photos are just replaced with blank boxes.


Facebook users recently started noticing that some of their photos had disappeared. The issue seems to affect albums uploaded in 2008 and 2009, and users have tracked down the problem to a server farm in Sweden. For its part, Facebook has yet to publicly acknowledge the bug.

As you can see in the screenshot above, entire albums no longer show photos and are instead full of blank boxes. Last month, Facebook user Ryan Grant posted the following issue under the Photos section of the Facebook Help Center:

I can't see certain photo's all through out facebook don't seem to be any logical pattern, is there a fix or is this a known bug?

The thread has 36 replies but no solution. Last week, Facebook user Todd Hartstein also posted about the issue on the Facebook Help Center:

Why are some of my pics in one of my photo albums all of a sudden nothing but blank squares? They were always there before, but I just noticed they are blank now. How do I restore them?

He had better luck, as the thread exploded and has already received 70 replies, and not all of them are just people complaining about the problem. Facebook user Marc Kollins offered some insight:

These problems can be related to several possible issues including, but not limited to:

- your Facebook Account Security settings (http vs https) - "overloaded" browser data files (cache/temporary internet files) - browser add-on apps (especially ad-block programs) - browser content block settings - ISP connection issues - a Facebook server error or downed server

Based on experience, I would surmise that probable causes of these problems are related to the first two items listed above.

To change your Facebook SSL/TLS protocols setting, select the options/settings button (down-arrow) in the upper-right-hand corner of the blue bar at the top of most of your Facebook pages > select "Account Settings" > select "Security" (left-hand column) > select "Secure Browsing" > if disabled, enable "Browse Facebook on a secure connection (https) when possible."

Clear your browser data files (cache/temporary internet files.)

If neither of these solutions resolves the problem, I would suggest that you use a different browser, as a test, to determine if your current browser is the culprit. For example, if you are using iE, download Chrome or Firefox and see if the problem persists. If the problem does not occur using a different browser and you wish to continue using your current browser, I would suggest that you either update your current browser and flash player, or, remove both and re-install. If you choose to re-install your browser, make sure that you "export" a copy of your bookmarks/favorites so that you can "import" them after the re-install process.

Only the last suggestion worked for some users. The issue was resolved after switching to Google Chrome. Unfortunately, most users were not so lucky. They've tried different browsers, different computers, different accounts (followed by navigating to the albums in question), and they're still seeing blank boxes instead of photos.

Finally, Kollins stumbled on a possible answer:

I have checked about a dozen "blank" photos in various albums of about 4 or 5 people posting on this thread. Though I do not know how reliable the information is, ALL of the images in question appear to be associated with an IP address leading to an Akamai fbcdn (Facebook Content Distribution Network) server, located somewhere in Sweden.

Please note that approximately 6 months ago, it was announced that Facebook was planning to construct a server farm in northern Sweden near the Arctic Circle. I do not know if Akamai or Facebook are currently having server and/or network problems, or, if the encountered issue is related to the reported Facebook construction in Sweden.

Could this issue come down to a broken server or servers in Sweden (Facebook building server farm just south of Arctic Circle)? It's possible, but until Facebook confirms we won't know for sure.

Facebook user Joan Madsen Lorge posted yet another question on the Facebook Help Center on Sunday:

Is anyone else missing photos in your albums? I am missing photos in several albums since I converted to Timeline. :( I reported it to Facebook a week or two ago, but as of now, they have not replaced my missing photos and I have not received a reply from them.

It has just five answers, all of them from frustrated Facebook users. It's not the first time someone suggested this has something to do with Facebook's new Timeline profile, but even users who don't have Timeline yet are missing photos.

It's unknown how many Facebook users are currently affected by this problem. 250 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day, so it's understandable that things can go wrong. What is frustrating to these users is that Facebook has yet to respond to their inquiries.

I have contacted Facebook about this issue and will update you if I hear back. Thanks to Tom Carter for the heads up!

Update at 2:00 PM PST: Facebook has posted this under Known Issues: "Photos: Some people are seeing photos as blank squares in their albums and around the site. These photos are not lost and will begin to appear as we continue to work on this. Sorry for any inconvenience."

See also:

Topics: Browser, Servers, Social Enterprise

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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  • Good to see!

    Lol, is this the new "face" of the Facebook Style department? They should have a few employees perusing and deleting pics. Have you SEEN some of these people? Take those mugs down, lol.
    James Keenan
  • A reminder to backup your data

    This is just one of many reminders that you should have a backup of your Facebook data (and Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, etc).
    SocialSafe (www.socialsafe.net) is a tool that does this very well, and provides you a full 100% private user interface to review your data, search it and export as CSV. All Facebook photos are downloaded complete with face tags and user comments. At $3.49 a year its not expensive either.
  • Facebook's missing photos.

    Thanks, Emil, for the above article which has, at last, pushed FB into acknowledging they have a problem with missing photos. But this has been the case for over a month now and they've still not fixed the problem nor informed subscribers as to its cause.
    Could this simply be the tip of the iceberg with much more yet to be revealed? Strangely too their acknowledgement does not head the list of subscribers questions but is hidden away over a list of 2448 unrelated issues.
    Please keep a watchful eye on this for us, Emil, and inform us of any further developments. Many thanks indeed. JT.
  • Facebook Photo missing

    Thank you ... maybe attention to this will get this solved for us

    Only one photo missing for me, I thought it may have been because it was a photo of a celebrity a, myself and my apprentice, Nope thats not it. Thank you for spreading the word as fb has no where to go with such a problem. It is not OS (vista, XP, XP pro,win7), it is not browser (tried four), it is not computer (3 of my own) ... the problem is something else.
  • Disappearing photos

    I have noticed I see empty squares on my facebook pages when trying to view what others have posted or feeds that I receive. I do not know if this is associated with Google Analytics and others gathering information because I tried to put a block on this and then noticed missing photos. However, if this is any help to anyone, I am able to view the same missing photos on Facebook using an older Mac laptop that does not have Mavericks OS on it and I did not try to block sources from farming browsing data. If someone has a solution for this phenomena, please let me know.