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2/8/2013
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Facebook Connect Glitch Caused Website Outages

Facebook Connect problem created a domino effect on Thursday as companies that use the service saw visitors redirected from their sites.

Facebook's 2012 Highs And Lows
Facebook's 2012 Highs And Lows
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A problem with Facebook Connect created a domino effect of sorts on Thursday as companies that use the service saw visitors being redirected from their sites. The problem affected a number of sites, including CNN, Mashable, the Huffington Post, Salon and MSNBC.com.

Facebook Connect enables third-party websites to implement features of the social network on their own sites. An issue with the Facebook Connect API caused visitors to sites that use the API -- who were also logged in to Facebook at the time -- to be hijacked and redirected to an error page. The event lasted only a short time, and Facebook brushed aside the issue with the following statement: "For a short period of time, there was a bug that redirected people logging in with Facebook from third party sites. The issue was quickly resolved and Login with Facebook is now working as usual."

[ Is Facebook Card the Next Big Thing? Read about it at Facebook Card May Be Social Network's Killer App. ]

But however brief, the glitch raises questions about businesses' increasing use of -- and reliance on -- Facebook.

"The bug clearly demonstrates the pervasiveness of Facebook Connect throughout the Web," said Jake Wengroff, founder of social business consultancy JXB1 and a contributor to The BrainYard. "While this issue doesn't demonstrate a serious security breach, it shows how widespread the use of Facebook credentials is when accessing website content."

Facebook took a lot of heat about the issue on, well, Facebook and other social networks, but Alan Lepofsky, VP and principal analyst at Constellation Research, provided a reminder that outages and problems like the one that Facebook Connect caused on Thursday are part and parcel of leveraging any cloud service and that companies need to weigh the benefits with the risk.

"Yesterday's error illustrates the impact that a reliance on Facebook -- or any cloud service, for that matter -- can have on other companies," said Lepofsky. "When something goes wrong with their servers or their API, it impacts possibly thousands of organizations, without the ability for those companies to fix the problem themselves. On the plus side, due to their size and expertise, a large cloud vendor like Facebook should be able to fix a problem faster than a company's own IT department may be capable of. In my opinion, the benefits of working with cloud-based integrations outweigh the occasional issue that may occur."

What do you think -- do the advantages of using cloud-based services outnumber the potential risks? Let us know in the comments section below.

Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.

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Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/8/2013 | 8:40:23 PM
re: Facebook Connect Glitch Caused Website Outages
Brad Causey, security consultant and Dark Reading contributor, had this to say:
"Facebook's Connect issue yesterday simply underscores the risks associated with the business community integrating with social technologies. Issues like this, and the Amazon glitch last year, should make businesses take a close look at who their digital partners are and what the impact there may be to users if those partners can't keep up their end of the bargain."

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard

Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/8/2013 | 8:26:41 PM
re: Facebook Connect Glitch Caused Website Outages
I recently did a story about Gigya's new social login certification (http://www.informationweek.com..., and I reached out to the company for comment on the Facebook glitch. Gigya CEO Patrick Salyer said, "The Facebook for Websites (formerly Facebook Connect) API changes very frequently and requires a lot of technical maintenance. This is difficult for businesses to do on their own - so they typically turn to companies like ours to automatically handle the various social network APIs for them. In this case, none of Gigya's clients were affected by this bug as we continuously monitor the Facebook for Websites API and found a workaround immediately. I think it's fair to say that social login is core to the user experience of literally millions of sites. When it breaks, it not only creates major user experience issues but also will drastically increase abandonment rates for registration and checkout, and prevents users from sharing content to their social networks, which reduces referral traffic. These are critical metrics for online businesses that affect their bottom lines, so it makes sense that they turn to companies that specialize in social technologies to ensure everything works properly."

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
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