Facebook is lowering its video bitrate in response to coronavirus, but the company is doing so because its apps are suffering from internet traffic congestion.
Facebook apps affected by coronavirus crisis, company says
"As the pandemic expands and more people practice physically distancing themselves from one another, this has also meant that many more people are using our apps. The usage growth from COVID-19 is unprecedented across the industry. Maintaining stability throughout these spikes in usage is more challenging than usual now that most of our employees are working from home," Facebook Analytics VP and Engineering VP Alex Schultz and Jay Parikh wrote on the Facebook blog yesterday.
Facebook is seeing a large jump in service growth because of internet traffic increase. Facebook Google, Microsoft, Samsung, Best Buy, and Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and even AT&T (though fewer than the rest) employees are working from home. Others from retail stores, restaurants, and delivery companies, now find themselves at home for the long haul.
With little else to do outside of watching COVID-19 news coverage, global citizens are on the internet. Many are having video chats, playing games, texting, calling family and friends, etc.
And they're doing these things with Facebook apps Facebook (core), Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
With so many turning to Facebook apps and services during this time at home, Facebook is seeing service disruptions and traffic overload on its social media platforms. This explains the company's claim that it's working hard to keep its apps stable during this time.
One can expect challenges when usage grows exponentially all of a sudden. Gradual growth is easier to manage. Sudden growth is much more difficult to tame.
What Facebook is doing to prevent service disruptions and outages
Facebook is working hard to keep apps and services in working order. Facebook says it's lowering video bitrate "in certain regions". It's doing this in order to keep traffic to as much a minimum as possible.
At this point, the company is only lowering bitrate on Facebook and Instagram for the EU, but it may add more regions and countries to the list in the next few weeks.
Google's YouTube initially said it would reduce video playback resolution from 720p to 480p for the EU. YouTube now says it's reducing video playback resolution worldwide.
Facebook's efforts will bear some fruit, but only time will tell. If employees continue to stay out of work and schools remain closed throughout the remainder of the Spring semester, it will be a tough summer for service providers, wireless providers, and global citizens alike.
Facebook on the frontlines of the coronavirus crisis
The Mark Zuckerberg-led company is doing all it can to keep users up-to-date about the spread of coronavirus. Facebook says that WhatsApp users can receive WHO Health Alerts from the World Health Organization. Facebook Messenger customers will also have access to the latest information by way of Facebook's COVID-19 Information Center.