Facebook is struggling under a massive spike in usage across the globe due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, says the company in a blog post on Tuesday.
The majority of this new usage is concentrated on private messaging and video calling, tools that Facebook manages but does not monetize. The social media giant says it is losing money as a result, all the while it struggles to keep its communication tools online and afloat.
The blog post, logged by Alex Schultz, VP of Analytics, and Jay Parikh, VP of Engineering, states that in countries that have been hit hardest by the virus, like Italy, total messaging on Facebook has increased by more than 50% over the last month. These places have also seen voice and video calling more than double on Messenger and WhatsApp.
Specifically in Italy, the post says that users have spent 70% more time across their catalogue of apps since the crisis arrived in the country. In one week, Instagram and Facebook live viewers doubled, and messaging has increased over 50% and time in group calls – of 3 or more participants – increased by over 1000% during the last month.
In terms of revenue, Schultz and Parikh write “Much of the increased traffic is happening on our messaging services, but we’ve also seen more people using our feed and stories products to get updates from their family and friends. At the same time, our business is being adversely affected like so many others around the world. We don’t monetize many of the services where we’re seeing increased engagement, and we’ve seen a weakening in our ads business in countries taking aggressive actions to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”
“During this emergency, we’re doing everything we can to keep our apps fast, stable, and reliable. Our services were built to withstand spikes during events such as the Olympics or on New Year’s Eve. However, those happen infrequently, and we have plenty of time to prepare for them.”
The pair says that the usage growth from COVID-19 is unprecedented across the industry, and Facebook is “experiencing new records in usage almost every day”.
Facebook is struggling more than usual to maintain stability during these spikes, especially now that most of its employees are working from home. “We are working to keep our apps running smoothly while also prioritizing features such as our COVID-19 Information Center on Facebook as well as the World Health Organization’s Health Alert on WhatsApp,” writes Schultz and Parikh.
The social media mainstay is also monitoring usage patterns carefully, enacting ways to make its systems more efficient, and adding capacity as required. To help alleviate potential network congestion, it is also reducing bit rates for videos on Facebook and Instagram in certain regions, at least temporarily.
Finally, the company is conducting further tests and preparing in order to quickly respond in case of any problems that may arise from the service.
“As this global public health crisis advances and more people are physically separated from their communities, we expect that people will continue to rely on our services to stay connected during this time, and we hope these connections make it easier for people to stay home,” concludes the blog post.
Edited by Luis Monzon
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