LONDON — WhatsApp, the popular messaging app, was inaccessible to users in several countries around the world for about two hours on Tuesday morning, including Britain, India and South Korea.
The outage started around 3 a.m. Eastern time, according to Downdetector.com, which tracks internet disruptions, and users reported that services were back up after 5 a.m. Internet service outages are often restored within a few minutes or hours, but given WhatsApp’s size and position as an indispensable communication tool in many countries, every second without access had added consequences. People took to Twitter to raise questions about the outage, writing in German, Hindi, Indonesian, Portuguese, Spanish and other languages.
“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,” Josh Breckman, a WhatsApp spokesman, said in a statement before the service was back up. The statement did not specify the extent of the problem.
WhatsApp, which is owned by Meta, the parent company of Facebook, lets users make calls and send text messages for free over the internet, has more than two billion users around the world. It is particularly popular in Africa, Europe, India and South America.
In India, WhatsApp’s largest market with hundreds of millions of users, the outage prompted an outpouring of frustration over life coming to a halt, mixed with comic relief over a brief respite from the overwhelming amount of daily spam, from political propaganda to forwarded messages of “good morning” virtual flowers from elderly uncles.
“Was WhatsApp not able to handle the Diwali messages of Indians?” joked one user on Twitter, referring to the flood of congratulatory messages over the long holiday weekend.
The last major Facebook outage occurred just over a year ago, when Facebook and its family of apps, including Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp, went down for about five hours. Before that, Facebook’s biggest outage was in 2019, when a technical issue brought down the services for nearly 24 hours, preventing WhatsApp users from sending messages and Instagram users from viewing other profiles.
Tuesday’s outage came at a difficult time for Meta, which recently began a major advertising campaign touting WhatsApp as a safe and reliable alternative to iMessage and other messaging services. Meta has also been struggling to convince customers and investors that a bet by its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, on virtual reality technology and the so-called metaverse will pay off. The company is expected to report a drop in revenue in its earnings report on Wednesday. Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014 for $22 billion.
Mujib Mashal contributed reporting from New Delhi.