Struggling to load Amazon or eBay in your web browser? HMRC or UK Government site not working for you? PayPal or Ticketmaster can’t complete a transaction? Don’t panic, it’s NOT your computer – it’s a colossal global error that has caused havoc with dozens of the world’s most popular websites.
Huge swathes of the internet have been thrown into chaos as dozens of the most popular websites have gone offline. From Amazon to eBay, Twitch.tv to Reddit, PayPal to Ticketmaster, and even Gov.uk and HMRC’s online resources – none of these sites are able to load. Major news websites, including The Guardian, Financial Times, and The New York Times have also gone dark due to the same error. Together, these sites attract millions of visitors every day. As it stands, millions of those users are being confronted with a series of error messages, including “connection failure” and “Error 503 Service Unavailable”.
So, what is going on and what links these vastly different websites?
Well, the best guess right now is that it’s all linked to an error with a CDN. A Content Distribution Network, or CDN, is a network of proxy servers and their data centres distributed across a wide area. The goal of this set-up is to provide high performance to end users by ensuring that whatever service they’re trying to access – whether it be a Californian website or Australian retailer – is always spatially relatively close to the end users’ computer.
In other words, it means that not all of your data is being beamed back to and from Seattle every time you try to access an Amazon webpage just because the company has its headquarters there. Fastly, a hugely popular CDN for a vast number of websites, has encountered an error right now, leaving dozens of household names, like Amazon, Ebay, Twitch.tv offline for users.
On its status page, which is designed to confirm to customers when the CDN is encountering issues, it has confirmed there is an ongoing problem. “We are continuing to investigate this issue,” Fastly has confirmed, but offered no more details about when users can expect their favourite websites to return to normal.
Fastly has warned about “Degraded Performance” for users across the world, from North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. However, there are still pockets globally, where the popular CDN service says users should expect to see websites “Operational”. It’s unclear whether these areas never went offline due to the issue… or whether they’ve been fixed first.
DownDetector, which monitors the performance of websites and web apps by tracking reports of problems on social media, has revealed the sheer scale of the problems. More than 4,000 people have reported issues logging into Amazon right now, according to data from the service. Meanwhile, 3,500 are unable to visit Twitch.tv and almost 10,000 are complaining about problems accessing Reddit every minute