Numerous sites worldwide down: why did the internet choke again?
The internet choked again on Thursday. For the second time in a month and a half, a malfunction at an online service provider brought down a large number of websites. Sites of NS, the police, Dutch banks, shops, and Funda, among others, were not accessible. Various media were also unreachable, such as nu.nl and the sites of, among others de Volkskrant, Fidelity and the AD. The problems occurred worldwide; Amazon, Google, PlayStation and Airbnb websites were also affected.
This time, the cause was an error at Akamai, a so-called content delivery network or CDN. Such a CDN rents out servers that temporarily store the content of websites near the person who visits them. This means that every byte does not have to be sent around the world when someone views a web page. You could compare it with a milkman who delivers at home, right at the front door.
CDNs are a method of making web services work quickly and stably. Unfortunately, they are not infallible. This became apparent on June 8 during a malfunction of Fastly, a competitor of Akamai. That outage shut down thousands of web services and sites worldwide for an hour.
1 Was there an attack or a hack?
That’s unlikely. Akamai quickly had the problem under control and himself indicated that there seemed to be no intent to play. The company calls it a “service disruption” that started around 9 a.m. in the United States and was resolved after 45 minutes.
2 What was the cause of the malfunction?
Given the speed with which the issue was resolved, it could have been a minor but critical configuration error that was carried out in multiple places. Akamai turned it back with a ‘fix’ as soon as the first complaints came in.
3 Is it to be expected that such failures will occur more frequently?
Nothing human is alien to the tech sector. It is inevitable that mistakes will be made behind the scenes. The same goes for companies with a pretty spotless reputation, like Akamai. We will notice such disruptions more quickly and have more impact, because our lives are increasingly taking place online.
4 Can companies prepare for this?
CDNs are indispensable for a stable online experience. But relying on one party for the delivery of your data is risky. There is always a chance that CDNs will “go flat” and not be back up and running as soon as possible. The best way to avoid problems is to keep a second CDN as a backup. This costs money and requires preparation in order to be able to react quickly in the event of a failure.