Hundreds of websites worldwide crashed this morning following a massive internet outage – with the UK government, Amazon and Spotify among those experiencing issues.
Millions of users across the globe reported problems trying to access web pages, with Netflix, Twitch and news websites including the BBC, Guardian, CNN and the New York Times hit by the problem.
Passengers desperately trying to fill out locator forms on UK.Gov to enter the UK from Portugal and abroad were also affected by the outage.
Some websites appeared to be gradually coming back online shortly before midday, but with slow loading times.
The problem was caused by the US firm Fastly, a content delivery network (CDN) company which helps users view website content more quickly.
The aim of CDNs is to reduce latency – the delay from the moment a user makes a request to the exact instant they receive a response. The higher the latency, the worse the user experience.
But if the service suffers a failure, as Fastly’s did today, it prevents the companies that use it from operating on the net at all.
Many of the world’s biggest websites run on the ‘edge cloud’ platform’s network, hence the mass outage.
Fastly first posted an error message at 10.58 BST (05.58 ET), saying it was ‘investigating potential impact to performance with our CDN services’.
It later tweeted shortly after midday UK time: ‘We identified a service configuration that triggered disruptions across our POPs globally and have disabled that configuration.
‘Our global network is coming back online.’
Users took to social media to vent their frustrations about the outage.
One called it an ‘internet apocalypse’, while another said ‘everything just shut out of nowhere’.
Another tweeted that the internet was ‘broken’.
The outage saw visitors to a vast array of sites receive error messages including ‘Error 503 Service Unavailable’ and ‘connection failure.’
Some sites including the UK government website were offline entirely, while others such as Twitter had more specific errors, such as not showing emojis.
Travelling Britons revealed their frustration this morning at not being able to complete their passenger locator form because the Gov.UK website was down.
Among them was Priya Bhargava from London, who tweeted: ‘@GOVUK hello your website is down I need to submit a passenger locator form by this eve. Pls can this get looked at ASAP. Thanks!!!’
Another, Jo Thornhill, tweeted: ‘@GOVUK your website is down and I need to complete a passenger locator form ASAP.’
And a third, Richard Pearson, from Nottingham, said: ‘Need to fill out passenger locator forms to return to the uk but http://gov.uk is down so I can’t. Great.’
Passenger locator forms are required by British border officials for those returning from all countries abroad.
These must be completed online at Gov.UK, although those aged under 18 may be included on adults’ forms if they are staying at the same UK address.
The form details your home address, passport number and test package booking reference.
The official Gov.UK Twitter account said: ‘We are aware of the issues with http://GOV.UK 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.’
Outage tracker website DownDetector also reported problems for Squarespace, Shopify, Vimeo, Imgur, Tidal, Weightwatchers and Kickstarter. UK chemist Boots was also affected.
The Guardian earlier tweeted: ‘The Guardian’s website and app are currently being affected by a wider internet outage and will be back as soon as possible.’
Other websites hit by the issue included the online discussion platform Reddit and French newspaper Le Monde.
A CDN is a platform of servers that helps minimize delays in loading web page content.
Jake Moore, a cybersecurity specialist at ESET, said: ‘Web pages are located all over the world so content delivery networks are placed to distribute the data evenly by reducing the physical distance between where it’s actually held and the end user.
‘This helps users around the world view the same high quality information and content without any lag or slow loading times.
‘With Fastly down, millions of web pages will be affected.’
More than half of the internet’s traffic is served by a CDN, according to internet services company Akamai.
Fastly later updated its service status page, saying: ‘The issue has been identified and a fix is being implemented.’
A number of the affected websites had earlier begun to confirm that the issue was linked to Fastly. Read more…