Clearly, some needed time away from social networking last night was productive for a few folks, who took the statusless, friendless, historical moment to deal with some issues, some rumors, some complaints. Turns out a lot gets done when we're not updating our old high school buddies about our relationships or FarmVille achievements.
1. About that: Facebook was down last night. Did you notice? Did the information superhighway grind to a halt in a panicked gridlock? Did the Earth stop spinning on its... well, okay there's no need to be dramatic. But the social network was down due to a technical flaw for what was its worst outage in four years—up to two and a half hours in the evening New York time. 500 million souls around the world were in twisted, lonely, disconnected agony. Or perhaps not. The technical hitch itself was pretty interesting: It was an error in a look-up table in an error-checking routine. The glitch caused the system to go into a feedback loop and thus—no Facebook. The company's systems are hugely complex, so sophisticated errors like this are bound to crop up. But it does make us worry for the moment Facebook's servers become self aware, rip up their broadband cables and demand voting rights.
2. Is the end of the unlimited mobile data plan nigh? Verizon's planned moves to cap 3G mobile data certainly seem to indicate so, since the network is the U.S.'s most popular, and rival AT&T pulled a similar trick pretty recently. The current unlimited download plan is priced at $30 per month, and though new tiered plans will roll out in the next four to six months, we're not sure exactly how "capped" they're going to be, or how much you'll pay for the privilege of having Verizon decide you're a data hog. The reasons for applying tiering are twofold: First, the extra revenues it's bound to generate will help pay the monstrous bill of building out a 4G network. And second, it's because the old guard in the cell phone industry appear to have been blind to what their customers really wanted—that is, data and lots of it—and were caught on the hop by the massive network-straining demand.
3. Meanwhile Verizon's also in the news in a similarly gloomy light (if you're a CDMA iPhone owner wannabe) because the company's CEO Ivan Seidenberg noted we shouldn't expect a Verizon iPhone anytime soon—quashing some recent hot rumors. Well, kinda quashing them since his choice of words was weaselly and political: "We don't feel like we have an iPhone deficit [truth-bending event No. 1]. We would love to carry it when we get there [understatement, and where is "where" exactly?], but we have to earn it [confusing]." Then he made some noises about 4G and how it could tempt more makers aboard the Verizon bus, including Apple which he hopes will "get with the program." Hmm, not a good indicator that he has his finger on the pulse, really—in the new order of cell phone businesses doesn't he know that it's Apple's program his company has to "get with"?
4. Saudi Arabia gets a round of applause this morning for degrading another set of free speech rights: It's been reported that the government is to turn the same level of scrutiny (and thus menaces and reprisals) that it delivers to the newspaper business onto the blogging business. A spokesman has said all Web content publishers, including blog and forum operators, will have to apply for a license. It's government regulation, dressed up as moves to prevent libel and defamation, but you can probably be pretty clear what it's really all about.
5. Finally, here's a poser: All those sci-fi/spying movies may be right. A computer virus dubbed Stuxnet appears to have been crafted to specifically target Iranian computers, and may have been intended to cripple the country's infrastructure—including its extraordinarily controversial nuclear power program. Some thinkers suggest its level of sophistication is so high it could only have come from a nation state, rather than a malicious, clever hacker with a grudge against Iran.
To keep up with this news, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.