Users of numerous popular iPhone apps such as Spotify, Venmo, Tinder, TikTok, DoorDash, and Pinterest experienced persistent app crashes as a result of a bug in Facebook’s SDK this week. The crash reports began coming in around 6:30pm Eastern yesterday, but the issue has since been resolved.
Not long after the problem emerged, it was revealed to have been caused by a server-side change by Facebook. “A new release of Facebook included a change that triggered crashes for some users in some apps using the Facebook iOS SDK. We identified the issue quickly and resolved it. We apologize for any inconvenience,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Verge.
The Facebook SDK is included in apps by developers for a number of reasons, from offering single sign-on using users’ Facebook accounts to enabling sophisticated metrics for Facebook ads. The apps were attempting to communicate with Facebook’s servers and crashing as a result. The crashes happened even if users were not logged into Facebook, did not have any apps made by Facebook installed, or were not using any Facebook-related features in the affected apps.
Many users aren’t aware that the Facebook SDK is included in—and often collecting data inside—most of their favorite apps or that apps like Spotify check in with Facebook servers. But widespread reporting on this issue is exposing more users to that fact, and that has led to some outrage on social media platforms.
Developers, too, were incensed. A GitHub thread is filled with reports from developers whose apps and users were affected. “To stop crashes from the Facebook SDK, some devs tried commenting out any code that calls Facebook,” Halide developer Ben Sandofsky said on Twitter. “Nothing worked.”
Developers were frustrated that their attempts to solve the problem on their own were fruitless. The only solution available to them was to wait on Facebook.
This is not the first time Facebook has caused problems in the iOS app ecosystem. For example, in early 2019 Apple temporarily revoked Facebook’s developer certificate over the latter’s use of an app that stealthily collected data on users usage of apps—even apps that weren’t made by Facebook—to help Facebook achieve greater understanding of its competitors and build competing apps and experiences.
“Please move slower and break fewer things,” said user lucas-tl on the GitHub thread, mocking Facebook’s old motto to “move fast and break things.”