Do you remember the massive Facebook outage that occurred on 4 October 2021? Facebook and its subsidiaries Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, Mapillary, and Oculus, became globally unavailable for more than six hours. This was the longest outage that Facebook ever experienced since 2008.
The outage resulted in a loss of about $6 billion for Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook himself. Many companies who used Facebook for their business operations also lost millions of dollars just because Facebook was unavailable for more than six hours.
In the same way as to how Facebook crashed for the whole world, what would happen if the entire internet crashes in the whole world?
It would be more disastrous than one could ever imagine. This is because the majority of the world today is dependent on the internet. Billions of dollars were already lost due to the recent Facebook crash. Now imagine how much more would be lost if the entire internet crashes in the whole world.
However, that would happen only if the entire internet becomes unavailable at a global level. Will it ever be possible to do that?
It is possible to cut off the internet in a particular country, like how it happens in North Korea. But is it possible to cut off the internet in the entire world? Theoretically, it is possible. But practically, it’s almost impossible.
Can the government control the internet? No, they can’t. The maximum they can do is remove a few social media posts and block a few websites.
This is because of how the internet is made. The internet does not have a central authority. It is decentralized. Let us take a quick look at the purpose of inventing the internet.
In the time period between 1947–1989, there was a period of geopolitical rivalry between the USA and the Soviet Union. The American military was anxious that if the Soviet Union ever attacks the USA, the entire communication system of the USA could get destroyed even with one attack at any place in their communication system.
This was because the entire communication system of the USA was centralized at that time. All the communication pathways were connected and damage at one point would disrupt the entire system.
That’s why US scientists at that time thought about inventing a communication system where a disruption at one point in the system would not affect the entire communication system of the country. This led to the idea that decentralization in the communication system would really be helpful and beneficial to the people.
In 1962, an American scientist named J.C.R. Licklider proposed the idea of creating a galactic network between all the computers that would allow the government officials to communicate with each other even if the Soviet Union destroys the telephone system in their country.
J.C.R. Licklider worked for an agency called Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA).
Based on his idea, American scientists were able to come up with a computer network similar to the one he proposed. In 1969, they were able to develop a network known as ARPANET.
Lawrence Gilman Roberts, an American engineer, and his team created the ARPANET using packet switching techniques invented by British computer scientist Donald Davies and American scientist Paul Baran.
Lawrence Gilman Roberts, also known as Larry Roberts, is now known as the founding father of the Internet.
A lot of improvements were made to this system. The development of inter-networking and the adoption of the TCP/IP protocol led to more developments in the system.
The internet was not accessible to the common public but after the invention of the World Wide Web (WWW) in 1989, it started becoming more accessible to the public. By the 21st century, the entire world can have accessibility to the internet.
It is not possible to block the internet for the entire world. It is possible to block the internet in a few regions, but it is not possible to shut down the internet on a global level. This is because the internet has no central authority. It is decentralized. A basic feature of decentralization is that even if one communication pathway gets damaged, it is always possible to use another pathway to transmit the message. This is the reason why it is not possible to crash the internet globally only by destroying a few communication pathways.