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Major websites down: Guardian, Amazon, CNN all suffer from Fastly cloud computing glitch

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The websites of the UK government and some of the largest news organisations around the world, from CNN to Bloomberg, shut down on Tuesday.

The widespread outage was caused by a disruption at the US-based cloud service company Fastly.

Visitors trying to access CNN.com got a message that said: “Fastly error: unknown domain: cnn.com.”

Attempts to access the Financial Times website turned up a similar message while visits to the New York Times and UK government’s gov.uk site returned an “Error 503 Service Unavailable” message, along with the line “Varnish cache server,” which is a technology that Fastly is built on.

Composite of downed internet sites

Fastly runs a content delivery network that pushes data quickly around the internet so businesses can help consumers shop online or watch videos on apps and websites.

Most of Fastly’s coverage areas were facing “Degraded Performance”, the website showed.

The company later said it had identified the issue was it was being fixed.

“We identified a service configuration that triggered disruptions across our POPs globally and have disabled that configuration. Our global network is coming back online,” Fastly tweeted.

Not all of its customers appeared to be affected and several websites restored service relatively quickly. Shopify and Stripe’s websites were available on Tuesday.

Other websites affected by the outage included The Guardian, Financial Times, Independent, New York Times, Evening Standard, Bloomberg and Le Monde as well as Reddit, eBay and Twitch.

“We are aware of the issues with gov.uk which means that users cannot currently access the site. This is a wider issue affecting a number of other websites. We are investigating this as a matter of urgency,” a British government spokesperson said.

The UK government’s Digital Service said they were aware of the issue affecting their websites as well as others around the world and were investigating.

We are aware of the issues with https://t.co/pmjggfEySo which means that users may not be able to access the site. This is a wider issue affecting a number of other non-government sites. We are investigating this as a matter of urgency.

– GDS (@GDSTeam)
June 8, 2021

The United Kingdom’s attorney general tweeted that the country’s main gov.uk website was down, providing an email for queries.

Amazon’s retail websites across the globe were also down with users unable to load the sites.

The outage was initially believed to be caused by an issue with Amazon Web Services, but the company did not report any disruptions.

What is Fastly?

Fastly is a content delivery network otherwise known as a CDN.

CDN’s are critical parts of the internet’s infrastructure, as they run a global network of servers.

These servers are meant to improve the performance of web services, meaning users get their internet searches faster and more efficiently.

The goal of a CDN like Fastly is to reduce latency, otherwise know as the delay between the time the internet user searches for something and the time that search appears.

Higher latency or higher delay means a lesser user experience.

Fastly essentially works by fetching and storing content from origin servers in caches on a by-request basis.

This means that websites like The New York Times, which use the platform, can ensure their readers get a smoother reading or viewing experience.

Fastly is one of a number of high-level website and application hosting services that large enterprises use to serve content to millions of users simultaneously.

Rather than hosting all website content on a single set of servers in one location, Fastly puts cloud infrastructure in dozens of locations to let people download from a server closest to them.

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