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What is Fastly and how did a CDN disruption break so much of the internet?

The scale of Tuesday’s outages underscores how large portions of the internet rely on a handful of companies that provide its infrastructure.

What is Fastly and how did a CDN disruption break so much of the internet?
[Photo: Erik Mclean]/Unsplash]
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Huge swaths of the internet were inaccessible for users around the world on Tuesday after a major provider of cloud computing services experienced a disruption.

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The outages affected a number of news sites, including the The New York Times, Financial Times, Vox Media, and others, as well as large online platforms, such as Twitch, Pinterest, and Reddit. Fast Company and its sister website, Inc., were also affected.

In a series of status updates Tuesday, cloud services provider Fastly referred to a global disruption of its content delivery network, or CDN. It later said that it had identified the cause and quickly began to deploy a fix.

Affected websites began to slowly come back to life on Tuesday morning. The service disruption included not only the front end of websites but also the back end, leaving many news providers with no ability to access their content management systems.

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Reached for comment, a spokesperson for Fastly attributed the issue to an errant service configuration. “We identified a service configuration that triggered disruptions across our POPs globally and have disabled that configuration,” the spokesperson told Fast Company. “Our global network is coming back online.”

The scale of the disruption underscores the extent to which large portions of the internet rely on just a few companies that provide its infrastructure. In 2017, a single coding error at Amazon Web Services resulted in service outages for huge chunks of cyberspace.

About the author

Christopher Zara is a senior staff news editor for Fast Company and obsessed with media, technology, business, culture, and theater. Before coming to FastCo News, he was a deputy editor at International Business Times, a theater critic for Newsweek, and managing editor of Show Business magazine

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