This story was originally published and last updated .
Following a day and a half of difficulties, Signal's cross-platform messaging service is operational again. Both Signal's Twitter and status dashboard indicate things are back to normal, and following the influx of literally millions of new users to the service, we can all enjoy more private and secure communications.
Signal is back! Like an underdog going through a training montage, we’ve learned a lot since yesterday — and we did it together. Thanks to the millions of new Signal users around the world for your patience. Your capacity for understanding inspired us while we expanded capacity. pic.twitter.com/cRNV8kVtdF
— Signal (@signalapp) January 17, 2021
Reports of problems first began on Friday at around 10 AM ET. The pace of reports has since diminished, with most claiming that issues have now been resolved.
Symptoms during the outage varied. Early on, folks had trouble even connecting and logging in. Later on, when things began coming back up at Signal, there was a mix of folks able to send but not receive messages, and conversations among certain platform combinations (like iOS to iOS) worked, while others didn't. In most cases, there was an ongoing error message banner that stated: "Signal is experiencing technical difficulties. We are working hard to restore service as quickly as possible."
One of the error messages Signal users might see during the outage. Thanks: Nicholas Blasgen.
The popularity of the Signal messaging service has been exploding in the last few weeks, in large part due to concerns surrounding the recent changes to WhatsApp's terms of service. For the unfamiliar, Signal is a privacy-centric messaging service available on Android, iOS, and desktop (including Windows, macOS, and Linux) that offers secure and encrypted communication. It's open source and run by a non-profit, and a popular alternative to services like WhatsApp and Hangouts.
slack goes down and i am free
signal goes down and i am anxious
— Tony Romm (@TonyRomm) January 15, 2021
It isn't surprising that Signal ran into an issue like this, given the pace of growth that it's seen recently. Based on Play Store metrics, its userbase is up at least 5X in the last week alone, and that's ignoring other platforms. The true numbers could be closer to 10 or 20X. With an explosion in new users like that, growing pains like these are basically inevitable, and today's downtime is to be expected.
I think the @signalapp apps DDoS'ed the server. Servers ran over capacity due to influx of users and started to return HTTP 508 which was not handled by the app and millions of apps started retrying the connection at once. Judging from recent commits in https://t.co/KD6kS2o9wt
— Daniel Novak (@NovakDaniel) January 16, 2021
Signal originally told us around 11 AM ET on Friday, 1/15 that it was fixing the issue and that it would be back to normal shortly, though that resolution took a little bit longer than expected. Given how quickly the service has grown recently, we can't blame them for being sudden victims of their own success. Learning how to scale is hard, and literally millions of people have been joining the service in just the last few days.
And it's back
Signal is back up, and our coverage has been updated.
Signal said on Twitter that some people might see errors in their chats, as a result of the extended outage. "This does *not* affect your chat's security," the group said, "but you may have missed a message from that contact. The next Signal app updates will fix this automatically."
In the meantime, if you see a "bad encrypted message" warning, you can select the 'Reset secure session' option in the overflow menu to clear out any issues. On iOS, there's a 'Reset session' button below the warning message.