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Even Facebook struggles: Zuck’s titanic database upgrade hits numerous legacy software bergs

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Facebook has had all sorts of no fun trying to migrate from MySQL 5.6 to version 8.0.

A post from the social network’s engineering team reveals that Facebook’s last MySQL upgrade – to version 5.6 – took “more than a year”.

Moving to version 8.0 has taken “a few years so far”.

Some of the reasons for the slow rollout will sound familiar – such as continued work on legacy software, even as new infrastructure was being implemented.

Facebook had custom code – over 1700 patches in its in-house branch of MySQL 5.6. Even as it ported them to 8.0, the company was adding more custom features to version 5.6 that also needed to be dragged into the future.

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Other parts of Facebook legacy code wouldn’t work with MySQL 8.0, and therefore “required a deprecation and migration path forward”.

“Upgrading from 5.6 to 8.0 skipped over 5.7 entirely. APIs that were active in 5.6 would have been deprecated in 5.7 and possibly removed in 8.0, requiring us to update any application using the now-removed APIs,” wrote Facebook software engineer Herman Lee and production engineering manager Pradeep Nayak.

Complicating matters further was Facebook’s use of the MyRocks project, an effort that lets MySQL use RocksDB as its storage backend, and which Facebook was developing during its migration to MySQL 5.6.

Jumping from version 5.6 to 8,0 – and skipping version 5.7 – meant Facebook could not upgrade servers in place, so had to use logical dump and restore to build a new server.

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“However, for very large mysqld instances, this can take many days on a live production server and this fragile process will likely be interrupted before it can complete. For these large instances, we had to modify our backup and restore systems to handle the rebuild,” Lee and Nayak wrote.

Facebook tracked the porting process of its custom patches using … wait for it … spreadsheets – and recorded discrepancies as they went.

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“Discrepancies on porting status would inevitably arise due to the large number of patches we needed to sift through and these notes helped us resolve them,” the pair wrote.

For migration, Facebook hatched a plan to create secondary instances of MySQL databases, then copy data from version 5.6. Once that was done, the secondary version 8.0 instance would be copied to the primary.

To get that done at Facebook scale, “we needed to build new software infrastructure”, the post states matter-of-factly.

We had to modify our backup and restore systems to handle the rebuild

Other issues that cropped up included increased memory usage, file format incompatibilities, and conflicts between newly adopted keywords and “popular table column names and aliases used in application queries”.

The tone used by the post’s authors suggests the project has made steady progress, with glitches to be overcome rather than setbacks that derailed progress or left project timelines in tatters.

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The post ends by saying the apps Facebook has moved are benefiting from their new database environment.

“Overall, the new version greatly expands on what we can do with MySQL @ Facebook,” Lee and Nayak conclude.

Whether that’s good for the rest of us is, as ever, the question Facebook struggles to answer. ®

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Facebook-Meta Earns the ‘Worst Company of 2021’ Title in This Survey

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Facebook has had its share of controversies this year. The company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents.

Facebook parent Meta has been named the Worst Company of the Year (2021) by Yahoo Finance respondents. According to the publication, an “open-ended” survey was published on Yahoo Finance on December 4 and 5, where 1,541 respondents participated. Facebook received 8 percent of the write-in vote, but respondents were seemingly mad about the Robinhood trading app as well. Electric truck startup Nikola, which was named last year’s worst company by the same publication also faced respondents ire.

Yahoo Finance notes, “Facebook has had its share of controversies this year.” Starting in January, Meta-owned WhatsApp got caught up in a huge controversy after the messaging app announced a new privacy policy (Terms of Service). WhatsApp said it would collect user information and share it with third-party apps for a better user experience. However, the app gave users no choice but later made modifications to the policy under pressure. Similarly, the company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents showing the company’s problematic practices. It was revealed that Meta-owned Instagram had a negative impact on teenage girls, but the company did almost nothing to rectify the problem.

Yahoo Finance even highlights, “At the same time, some critics, including conservatives, say Facebook over-policed the platform’s speech and stifled their voices.” Critics also blame Facebook and other social media platforms for not curbing hate speech that led to Capitol Building riots.

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However, around 30 percent of Yahoo Finance readers said that Facebook or Meta could redeem itself. One respondent suggested that the company could issue a formal apology for negligence and donate a sizable amount of its profits to a foundation to help reverse its harm.

On the other hand, respondents chose Microsoft as the Company of the Year (2021). The Satya Nadella-led company touched the trillion-mark this year and introduced notable upgrades. The most notable is the Windows 11 OS update that succeeds Windows 10.

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Facebook pays 1.7 Cr fine to Russia after failing to delete content Moscow deems illegal

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In the latest legal tussle with Russia over controversial social media regulation laws, Facebook paid 17 million roubles (Rs 1.7 Crore) for failing to remove content deemed illegal by Moscow. With a threat of potential larger fines looming, Facebook parent company Meta, owned by Mark Zuckerberg, is scheduled to face court next week over repeated violations of Russian legislation on content, Interfax News Agency reported. As per the latest updates, the social media giant could be fined a percentage of its annual revenue.

In October, Moscow sent state bailiffs to enforce the collection of 17 million roubles. Meanwhile, as per Interfax report citing a federal bailiffs’ database, on Sunday, there were more enforcement proceedings against the company. Apart from the popular social media app, Telegram has also paid 15 million roubles in fines for failing to comply with the Russian social media legislations that came into force in 2016.

Facebook pays $53k to Russia for refusing controversial social media laws

It is pertinent to mention that Facebook has locked horns with Moscow earlier in November, resulting in it paying 4 million roubles ($53,000) over its refusal to adhere to Russian data localisation laws, the Moscow Times reported. The Moscow court on November 25 had said that Facebook paid the fine levied in February, following which all proceedings against the US-based social media giant. The payment comes against the litigation filed against the company in 2018, alongside Twitter. The tech companies were also forced to pay an additional 3000 rubles ($40) for failing to comply with user data sharing rules as per the law. The Russian authorities have also previously blocked LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, for failing to abide by the laws.

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Russian social media laws

As per Moscow Times, under the Russian social media regulation laws, all foreign technology companies are required to store data related to Russian customers and users on servers located in Russia. Additionally, the Russian tech companies will also have to share encryption data with the federal authorities as well as record user calls, messages and civil society group conversation records. The apparatus is said to be a severe breach of privacy rights and unfettered back-door access to personal data that could be used to harass Kremlin critics.

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.

The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.

With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.

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Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.


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Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to tasneema@ndtv.com.

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