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Look What Happens to Web Traffic When Facebook Goes Away

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Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

For lots of Web publishers, Facebook has become the new Google — it’s become their most important source of traffic.

So guess what happened when Facebook went dark for a few minutes on Friday?

You’re right! Traffic sagged immediately, down three percent, says Josh Schwartz, chief data scientist at Chartbeat, which measures real-time Web traffic on sites around the world.

Schwartz has more data here, including stats on what happened to mobile Web traffic during the outage (hint: Facebook has become huge on mobile, so you can guess).

But let’s stick with the big takeaway, which is simple enough that even a typer like me can understand: If Facebook brings your site lots of traffic, then Facebook can take it away, too.

In this case, the Facebook traffic hose shut off because of a technical glitch. Easy enough to fix, apparently. The truly terrifying prospect for people who need Web traffic is what would happen if the hose gets pointed in a different direction — which is why Facebook freaked out much of the Web last fall, when it talked about tweaking its algorithm.

This article originally appeared on

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