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Facebook’s Apps Went Down. The World Saw How Much It Runs on Them.


Elizabeth Mustillo, a cake maker in Mexico City, said the strangest thing happened on Monday: Her phone started to ring with orders. She was forced to talk, not text, with her clients.

“It’s crazy,” said Ms. Mustillo. “No one ever calls anymore.”

A decade ago, customers would come to Ms. Mustillo’s store with a drawing or a clipping from a magazine with the design they wanted for a cake. Today, she rarely meets her clients. They send photos of cake designs by WhatsApp. They wire money through a banking app. And when her work is done, she orders an Uber to deliver the finished product.

“Most of my clients do not even have an email account anymore, unless they are working at a corporation,” said Ms. Mustillo. “It’s all WhatsApp now.”

In Mexico, many small-town newspapers cannot afford print editions, so they publish on Facebook instead. That has left local governments without a physical outlet to issue important announcements, so they, too, have taken to Facebook, said Adrían Pascoe, a political consultant.

A municipality Mr. Pascoe is consulting for was unable to launch its new services on Monday because the site was down. The announcement will take place on Wednesday instead, he said, even though Monday is optimal for Facebook traffic.

“Facebook has become the most powerful way to communicate,” Mr. Pascoe said. “It is where you go when you want the masses.”

León David Pérez’s two companies, including Polimatía, which provides e-learning courses, rely on Facebook and Instagram to market their products to clients. The customer service department is run on WhatsApp.

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