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BREAKING NEWS : Worries Over World Wide Web Stability

Government, news and social media websites across the globe are back online Wednesday after being hit by a widespread outage linked to US-based cloud storage company. High traffic sites including Reddit, Amazon, CNN, Paypal, Spotify and The New York Times were all experiencing problems on Tuesday night, but came back up after about an hour.

The problem was traced to a little-known company called “Fastly”, which has many people asking just how safe and stable is the internet if an outage at one company can cause so much trouble. Boston-based Fastly says it had an issue with its Content Delivery Network. That issue led to hundreds of major websites crashing, affecting hundreds of millions of people around the world.

You might not have heard of Fastly before, but its clearly a big internet player with close to $300-million in revenue last year. Basically, it allows client websites to store data such as images and videos on various mirror servers across 26 countries, so that data is closer to users and shows up faster. Many of Fastly’s clients are news sites that use its technology to update their websites with breaking news.

Had Tuesday night’s outage been more serious, Fastly’s clients could have lost customers to their competitors with those websites losing valuable revenue. Had the outage gone on longer, they’d have been forced to switch services, but internet infrastructure expert at traffic-measuring company, Kentik, Doug Madroy, says that’s not so simple, as you “can’t switch quickly to another service unless you had it set up ahead of time.”

He says outages like this are “not new but not all that common”, but it would have been “pretty bad” if Fastly had been down for a full day. It all goes to show just how vulnerable the internet really is and how a relatively small technical problem at a relatively obscure company can have potentially huge consequences in our everyday lives.

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