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Facebook toasts your 46 years of friendship, revealing a glitch

Friday, January 1, 2016 - 08:25
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[NEW YORK] Lately, Facebook has tried to be your buddy.

The company is building an artificial intelligence system, and its new features have taken on human-like sensibilities: "We care about you and the memories you share here," a message at the top of the news feed often proclaims, resurfacing an old post. Sometimes it even greets you with, "Good morning."

But a malfunction on Thursday that told people to celebrate 46 years of friendship reminded users that Facebook is still very much a computer, with a computer's problems, despite the Menlo Park, California-based company's best efforts. People quickly sent screen shots of the mistake, sharing it widely and laughing at the social network's miscalculation of friendships as if lasting since 1969.

The issue was probably rooted in the Unix operating system, which notes Jan 1, 1970, as day "0," a Microsoft developer posted on Twitter. Facebook's code probably confused the start date of friendship with the start date for zero. Facebook didn't note the cause of the error, but said it was working to correct it.

"We've identified this bug and the team's fixing it now so everyone can ring in 2016 feeling young again," Facebook spokeswoman Ashley Zandy said in a statement.

The glitch is a small stumble on Facebook's road to building greater trust with its 1.55 billion users worldwide.

The company is testing an artificially intelligent personal assistant that can accomplish tasks on behalf of its users. Facebook has also been creating products to be more empathetic, such as a set of options to make breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend less painful.

That's not to say the company always gets it right: The 46 years fumble was a break from another often-shared joke - that the social network will tell siblings they have known each other for their length of friendship on Facebook, which didn't exist until 2004.

BLOOMBERG