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The internet went dark this morning. Will it happen again?

If you’re reading this, it’s not too late.

The CNN Center in downtown Atlanta.
This Jan. 17, 2001, file photo shows people entering CNN Center, the headquarters for CNN, in downtown Atlanta.
Ric Feld, Associated Press

Major websites went offline early Tuesday morning for about an hour. The outage was traced to the content delivery network provider Fastly, reported The Washington Post. Numerous high-profile sites went offline until the issue was resolved.

  • The outage began about 5:49 am ET (3:49 a.m. MT) and ended about 6:39 am ET (4:39 a.m. MT), reported CNN.
  • Users discovering the issue sent #internetdown and #internetshutdown trending on Twitter, a working site, according to BBC.

With recent ransomware attacks on Colonial Pipeline in May and a meat processing company in June, this recent outage has further heightened concerns about the “vulnerability” of the internet, reported The Washington Post

Why did the internet go dark?

The recent outage came from issues in the global server network of Fastly, a major content delivery network provider. Many internet companies use delivery networks — like Fastly — to improve load times on their websites, apps and other platforms, reported CNN. Content delivery networks use global servers to store online data as close to the end-user as possible, making websites load faster.

  • Tuesday, Fastly implemented a bad software update that disrupted its servers and took down its own network, reported CNN. To fix the issue, Fastly disabled the software configuration.

What sites went offline?

According to an internet observation company, Kentik, Fastly lost about 75% of its usual traffic in the outage, The Washington Post reported.

The outage affected online shopping and payment processing sites, including Amazon, Target, Shopify PayPal and Stripe, per CNN.

  • Numerous social networking sites went dark, including Pinterest, Reddit, and Twitch, BBC reported.

Because Fastly is popular with media companies, the outage also hit a number of high-profile media websites, including The Guardian, The New York Times, CNN, BBC, The Verge, Financial Times, and Quora, according to reports.

  • Some streaming services went offline, including Hulu, Vimeo, and HBO Max, BBC reported.
  • Other affected sites included the UK government website, Stack Overflow, and GitHub, reported Tech Crunch.

Sites went offline in dozens of countries across the Americas, Europe and Asia as well as in South Africa, reported CNN. The outage could cost companies up to $250,000 in lost revenue, reported BBC.

In an entertaining attempt to work around the outage, The Verge published articles through Google Docs but did not properly limit editor permissions, allowing anyone to edit the articles, according to the BBC.

Will it happen again?

Fastly is one of a small number of cloud computing companies that provide essential internet services. Other services — like Cloudflare and Amazon Web Services — have experienced similar outages, The Washington Post reported.

  • The pandemic-led shift to online work, school, health care and even grocery shopping has increased the risk of internet outages having serious consequences, according to The Washington Post.

Outages like this are likely to continue happening.