Published: 09th June 2021
What the FAQ: What caused the global internet outage that took sites like Reddit, Amazon offline on June 8?
In today's What the FAQ, we explain what happened on June 8 when the world was hit by a major internet outage and why such an incident took place
Major websites around the world including Amazon, Reddit and The New York Times went down for about half an hour on Tuesday, because of an issue with the content delivery network (CDN) of American cloud computing services provider Fastly. The world was hit by this massive internet outage and speculations were aplenty on social media. However, things came back online pretty soon.
Hence, we try to answer most of your questions about the outage here — why it happened, how it occurred and much more.
What happened on June 8?
A wide range of the world’s biggest and most popular websites were pushed offline or had issues displaying images or other content because a service used to display that content – Fastly – suffered an outage of its own, causing many of the websites that use it to be disrupted. Sites including The Irish Times, The Guardian, Financial Times, Independent and The New York Times, the online forum Reddit, Twitter, Amazon and the UK government’s gov.uk site were all hit by the overall internet outage. Fastly confirmed that it had located an issue within its network that triggered the disruption and has now fixed it, slowly bringing its services back online.
What is Fastly?
Fastly is a cloud computing services provider, which offers CDN- Content Delivery Network, edge computing, cloud storage services. At about 3.28 pm IST, Fastly provided a status update saying: “We’re currently investigating potential impact to performance with our CDN services”. About an hour later, Fastly added: “The issue has been identified and a fix has been applied. Customers may experience increased origin load as global services return”. It also said that all of its geographies, including the three stations it has in India — Chennai, Mumbai and New Delhi — were suffering from “Degraded Performance”.
What is CDN?
Fastly operates what’s known as a content delivery network, or CDN. CDNs are networks of servers and data centres distributed around the world that allow for the transfer of assets needed for loading internet content. The company describes its technology as an “edge cloud” platform, which essentially means it places its infrastructure closer to the location where it’s needed to offer users faster response times. This essentially aims to make websites work better and load faster. They do this by storing versions of a company’s website in servers spread around the world so that they can be accessed by local users more quickly. This is required because many modern websites are often full of videos, high-resolution images and other content which would otherwise take longer to load – so this process helps streamline it and improve the experience for internet users. This set-up is also used to help at times of traffic surges to ensure as many people as possible are able to get onto a website and to protect websites from denial-of-service attacks which try to crash websites by flooding them with traffic.
What was the reason behind the recent outage?
The outage led to speculation online that Fastly may have fallen victim to a cyberattack. But Joshua Bixby, Fastly’s CEO, told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that the outage wasn’t attack-related. The company said in a tweet that it had “identified a service configuration that triggered disruptions” across its clusters of machines globally. The websites were back in an hour's time.