Swathes of the internet including Amazon, Reddit and many news outlets went offline on Tuesday following a glitch affecting a relatively obscure cloud computing company.
Dozens of major websites and hundreds overall were rendered inaccessible when Fastly started experiencing issues, leaving the likes of the Government’s gov.uk domain, streaming services Twitch and Spotify unavailable for most of an hour.
Some feared hackers were responsible for the disruption but it emerged that a problem with Fastly was behind the international wave of outages.
What is Fastly?
Fastly was founded by developer Arthur Bergman in 2011 and has grown into a crucial component of the technology underpinning modern day internet use. It is a content delivery network that sells security and tools to other large companies to help them deliver their content to users more quickly.
Essentially, Fastly’s tools aim to ensure web pages are delivered reliably to users as quickly as possible.
In 2017 it launched an “edge cloud platform” that allows users to access sites not based near where they live. It does so by speeding up loading times through effectively storing some content in servers closer to users.
Fastly’s website says it helped Buzzfeed to load pages 50pc more quickly, while its tools allowed the New York Times to handle the 2m readers reading its website on election night last November.
Mark Hendry at legal business DWF explains:
Fastly provide content delivery network services to companies. The intention of these networks is to route internet traffic and services through “nodes” to balance the load of traffic, prevent bottlenecks and result in high availability and faster content delivery.
Requests for content are directed by an algorithm, for instance the algorithm might direct the traffic so that it routes through the most available or highest performing node, or so that the traffic takes the fastest network route to the requestor. This is the reason that some internet users are reporting no issues with accessing content that is unavailable to others.
What went wrong at Fastly?
Fastly first flagged a problem on its service status page at 10.58am, warning: “We’re currently investigating potential impact to performance with our CDN services.”
Just over 45 minutes later, it added: “The issue has been identified and a fix is being implemented.”
By that point, the parts of the internet that were still working were alight with reports of the problems.
At 12.09pm it wrote on Twitter: