Instant messaging service WhatsApp — owned by social media giant Facebook — appears to have gone down this morning, leaving users without access to the service.

Twitter was flooded this morning by reports that users are unable to send or receive messages — though there are now reports the service has come back online for some.

The website DownDetector, which monitors outages by tracking social media comments, shows thousands of people worldwide reporting issues with WhatsApp, with Europe apparently the worst hit.

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WhatsApp down

Issues began to emerge shortly before 8am London time.

Often when services go down around the world it is due to demand spiking in different time zones — often just as people are waking up. While this issue appears to be affecting Europe predominantly it is most likely because Europe is where most of the apps users currently are.

Verdict has contacted WhatsApp for comment but has yet to hear back.

What does going down mean for tech services?

When tech services that we all rely on go offline the there is often an immediate reaction and it means that users will begin looking for alternatives — potentially driving them to competitors.

Due to the constant demand for online services like WhatsApp and social media, unplanned downtime results in instant negative media attention which can put people off signing up.

Some services are more important than others.

For the likes of WhatsApp to go down, which has various online alternatives, as well as people usually being able to use traditional SMS instead, is relatively less important than cloud services — on which much of the internet is supported — going offline.

In March this year Amazon Web Services (AWS) — one of the world’s largest cloud hosting services — fell offline. It blamed human error for the the outage that took down a bunch of large internet sites for several hours.

AWS leases out computing power and data storage to a huge number of large and small companies, is on pace to be a $14bn business over the next year, making up a considerable amount of e-commerce giant Amazon’s operating income.

In comparison WhatsApp drives very little of Facebook’s revenue and it’s unlikely that the outage will even register on the company’s share price unless it goes on for longer than a few hours.