Tuesday’s internet outage was very thoroughly reported, as it took down most of the world’s biggest websites.
Everybody hates it when their website is down, no matter the business model. But news publishers suffer most as the essence of their work is to be able to report to people what is going on!
Especially in a week where both U.S. Government and Microsoft had been warning the world against cyber attacks, when sites are down in such a massive scale and no one knows what will happen next, the first thing for news media is to ensure that the broadcast line is kept open.
So, how did news publishers react?
Those who were well prepared and equipped with live blogging tools, could use them and kept their momentum. As for the others? They either made the decision to wait it out, or switch to other available alternatives.
Let’s see some of the funny outcomes of those choices:
The technology site The Verge opted for Google Docs as a temporary home for its reporting.
And we’re back! Normal service on the internet has resumed, with the outage traced back to CDN provider Fastly. We’ll see you all again in Google Docs for the next disaster. https://t.co/S8dQkKKgbD
— The Verge (@verge) June 8, 2021
Which was simple and genius, but not very well thought through, as they left the Google Doc open to edits, so all the users grabbed the opportunity to jump in!
What a great idea! our site is broken, lets break Google docs! pic.twitter.com/8PuUmCFvE7
— André Venâncio (@andrevenancio) June 8, 2021
Βut in any case, their choice made Google folks super happy:
https://t.co/8g7t93TZKU is still up! (not that anyone cares)
— DW News (@dwnews) June 8, 2021
What exactly happened?
Most modern web publishing depends on a small number of large content delivery networks that serve as a faster, more efficient middleman between server and browser. Companies like Akamai and Cloudflare and StackPath make the internet faster for us to use.
Οne of them, Fastly faced a technical problem and for almost an hour, took down some of the biggest sites in the world, like Reddit, Spotify, Amazon, GitHub, PayPal, Twitch, and Hulu, plus major international news sites The New York Times, The Guardian, the BBC, CNN, and the Financial Times.
This is not the first time that an issue with CDN has caused many other dependent websites to go down. In 2020, Cloudflare, also leading global cloud platform, had faced issues that impacted its client websites. The Cloudflare glitch resulted in sites such as Discord, Feedly, Politico, Shopify, and League of Legends going down.
This time, San Francisco-based Fastly acknowledged a problem just before 11 CET. About an hour later, the company said: “The issue has been identified and a fix has been applied.” Most of the sites soon appeared to be back online.
What caused it?
The company said in an emailed statement that it was a “technical issue” and “not related to a cyber attack.”
Still, major futures markets in the U.S. dipped sharply minutes after the outage, which came a month after hackers forced the shutdown of the biggest fuel pipeline in the U.S.
There is no evidence to suggest Fastly’s issues on Tuesday were the result of a malicious cyberattack. But widespread outages are often the result of hackers, and are not always the fault of the companies hosting content.
For instance, in 2016, millions of internet users lost access to some of the world’s most popular websites after hackers compromised Domain Name System service provider Dyn Inc.. That knocked offline sites including Twitter, Spotify, Reddit, CNN, Etsy and The New York Times.