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8 June 2021updated 27 Jul 2021 10:53am

Fastly internet outage: what caused, Amazon and many other websites to go offline?

The cloud service provider Fastly suffered a technical problem that took down the websites of the UK government, the BBC and Reddit. 

By Oscar Williams

Dozens of the world’s largest websites were knocked offline on Tuesday (8 June) as the cloud hosting provider Fastly suffered a disruptive outage – pointing to a wider problem with internet infrastructure. 

The outage, which began at around 10.45 BST, affected the websites of the BBC, the UK government, Amazon, Reddit, the New York Times and many more of the world’s most popular sites, according to Downdetector.

A status page on Fastly’s website was updated at 10.58 BST to note that the company was “investigating potential impact to performance with our CDN services”. The issue caused “degraded performance” in each of Fastly’s service regions, across North America, South America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, South Africa and India. 

About an hour later, Fastly announced the issue had been identified as a “service configuration”, which was disabled.

The American cloud computing company provides a content delivery network, or CDN, which delivers web pages, imagery, video and other content to users from a network of servers.

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The New Statesman was among the sites to have been hit by the outage, which also disrupted popular features on sites that remained online. On Twitter, for example, emojis were not available during the outage. 

A number of other hosting provider outages have taken down major websites in recent years. Cloudflare, a rival to Fastly, suffered an outage in July 2020 that knocked Discord, Politico and Shopify offline. 

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Cloudflare attributed the incident to an outage at the internet service provider CenturyLink. Amazon Web Services suffered a similar outage in 2017. 

Such incidents illustrate a growing risk: much of the infrastructure underpinning the internet is entrusted to a small number of hosting providers. When one of these services suffers a fault, the impact is sudden and widespread.

Adam Leon Smith, a software testing expert with BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, said: “Outages with content delivery networks highlight the growing ecosystem of complex and coupled components that are involved in delivering internet services. Because of this, outages are increasingly hitting multiple sites and services at the same time.”