Facebook has been experiencing intermittent disruptions with the service for the better part of 12 hours where users are having trouble posting to their walls, liking or commenting on other people's posts. The general pop-up that users are getting says, "An error occurred while trying to write to our database, please try again later." Eventually, likes and comments are going through, but more often than not people are having troubles with normal Facebook activities.
This does not have to do with several changes that Facebook is making to its platform. In response to user complaints over the "chat bar" on the right side of the screen that was rolled out shortly after the Facebook/Skype announcement, Facebook has been tweaking the feature to make it more user friendly. Facebook is also experimenting with a news feed feature within said chat bar that some users are currently seeing. A Facebook spokesperson said the disruptions and the new services "are totally unrelated" and that "we had some general technical issues earlier this morning (unrelated to these chat changes) but it is back to normal now."
Facebook posted in its "known issues" page around 12:00 a.m. EDT, stating:
"We're currently experiencing an issue where some users may experience some slowness or timeouts while using the site. This issue should be resolved shortly."
Yet, according to DownRightNow, a crowd-powered service monitoring site, Facebook has been dealing with "likely service disruptions" for almost 24 hours. It has been a general theme for Facebook in August - for some reason, the service has not been working quite right. Facebook is large and complex and handles a vast amount of data, so anything from their Hadoop infrastructure to simple code degradation could cause intermittent problems with the platform. Facebook was not specific as to what its "general technical issues" were.
As for the new chat features, it looks like the side bar window is being broken into pieces. Facebook will attempt to determine your most talked to friends and place them at the top of the window while having a "find more friends" drop-down type of menu below. It is unclear how the side bar news feed would integrate into this.
Here is what Facebook public relations had to say about the new features:
"After we changed the way that Facebook Chat worked a few weeks ago, we got a lot of feedback that people missed being able to see all of their online friends. Earlier today we made a change to re-enable that functionality; Facebook Chat now shows you the friends that you interact with the most as well as the rest of your friends that are currently online. There is also a news feed test we are running in the side bar (and have been for some time) and is unrelated to the chat changes we made yesterday."
Facebook's engineering page updated what it is doing with the new chat features that reiterates what Facebook PR told us.
Robin Waters, a TechCrunch writer living in Europe, noticed the side bar news feed and posted a screen-grab of it.
What do you think? Do you welcome the changes Facebook is making to the chat feature or a news feed column that exists right next to your general news feed? Why would Facebook do two news feeds right next to each other? Let us know in the comments.