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Where Everyone Goes When the Internet Breaks

The Atlantic – Downdetector is a simple, ugly utility, which becomes a weird little life raft for displaced communities when their websites crash. “It can happen at any moment, yet we’re never prepared. When Twitter crashes, how do we tweet about it? We try and try. When Instagram is down, no one can see what we see. When the instant-chat apps of American offices sputter and crash, we go to Twitter and say, “We promise we are still working!” We feel lost, bereft, confused, fidgety, as we are forced to make typing noises with our mouths (“talking”). We hover over our keyboards, moving our hands in ways that don’t make sense, like former nicotine addicts who continue to hold pens as if they are cigarettes. There is only one place to take all this pain and nervous energy: Downdetector, a simple, boring website founded in 2001 to report outages of all kinds of internet services. It’s the first search result for questions such as “Is Twitter down?” and “Is Facebook down?” and “Is Gmail down?” and “Is the whole internet out in New York City?” On any given day, if everything is working fine, a graph showing just tiny smatterings of failure reports will be painted a soothing aquamarine. If, as with Facebook’s News Feed this morning, something is starting to go wrong for a greater number of people, the graph will spike and turn red.

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