Fallbook: Analyst Sergey Polovnikov on the Risks of Dependence on Global Digital Corporations


The first Monday in October demonstrated once again how dependent on modern technology not only companies are, but also normal people. The six-hour interruption of service on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp (along with Facebook Messenger) provoked a landslide of posts and conspiracy theories. The reality turned out to be prosaic: An unnamed engineer mixed up something in the script of a router update, which began a digital tsunami that crossed the entire world. At the same time, somehow no one recalled that not long ago Facebook didn’t work for 14 hours consecutively — twice as long. No one died because of this. Nevertheless, this whole story gives us yet another opportunity to talk about how to solve the problem of dependence on overseas services and technology.

Every time some accident happens to an information technology giant, philistines start counting money. For example, news spread of how Mark Zuckerberg’s wealth decreased by $6 billion as a consequence of the fall in Facebook’s stock price. Yet for some reason, no one writes how that stock (and therefore, Zuckerberg’s worth) has already made back half its loss and will return to its original value any day now. It’s just like how nobody was interested in whoever made exorbitant profits from the short sales which persisted for a few hours.

Meanwhile, it was enough just to know at what time that unfortunate router update would be installed to allow soft stock sales at the peak and — after a couple of hours, when the crash was replaced by a surge — to buy them back at bargain prices.

Even more interesting are the appraisals of analysts, experts and their accompanying development managers, who, with a face as straight as a Facebook timeline, speak of immense sums in losses to Russian business because of an interruption in an American corporation’s services. All we need now is some kind of poll to determine exactly how hard Zuckerberg struck at our companies’ wallets.

In fact, there really are unrealized profits, but only as they relate to advertising agencies’ earnings on advertisement turnover, and Victoria Bonya, who couldn’t release her next “stories” with an advertisement. Do these victims have any relation to real business? The question is rhetorical.

Those hit most directly were users of WhatsApp messenger, which the overwhelming majority of internet users in Russia continue to use. As technologically obsolete as it is morally, WhatsApp has remained popular for only one reason: the inertia of users. In the past, ICQ was just the same before Viber supplanted it. This malfunction is hardly likely to become the trigger that will push WhatsApp into the abyss of obscurity, but the registration of 50 million new users on Telegram speaks volumes.

So what’s a business that uses WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and other overseas platforms and services to do? Obviously, switch to domestic platforms. Thankfully, a sufficient number already exist today, both fee-based and free of charge. Unfortunately, as in the spring of 2020, nobody among domestic developers was prepared for the appearance of a sudden opportunity to channel panicking users in the right direction. It took half a year for Russian IT companies to release a domestic Zoom analog more or less comparable in quality, stability and technology. And if they would have had a ready product which — this is key — they used themselves, then they wouldn’t have missed their chance to attract new users. But if Yandex doesn’t use Yandex.Messenger and Mail.ru Group doesn’t use TamTam, then as the saying goes, it’s time to hang up the gloves.

What should those companies that genuinely want to protect themselves from similar interruptions as a result of others’ bungling do? Either use their own applications, or pick out an appropriate platform from domestic developers. The only condition is the commercial element. If you don’t pay for service, then no one is responsible to you. Like Zuckerberg, Pavel Durov, or any of the other beacons of the digital world.

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About Noah Nguyen 24 Articles
Noah Nguyen is a translator and writer of fiction based in the U.S.. He is enthusiastic about his work with Watching America and continues to develop his skills in translation. Noah's fiction stories, which are set in the Warhammer universe, have been published by Black Library.

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