Why do sites like Amazon and Netflix keep going down?


(NewsNation Now) — Amazon’s cloud-service network suffered a major outage Tuesday, impacting everything from airline reservations and auto dealerships to payment apps and video streaming services to Amazon’s own massive e-commerce operation.

This is far from the first time an outage of this magnitude has happened. In October, Facebook — now known as Meta Platforms — blamed a “faulty configuration change” for an hourslong worldwide outage that took down Instagram and WhatsApp in addition to its titular platform.

So why do these outages keep happening? Here’s how it all works.

Most websites are powered by information that lives in a virtual cloud. These companies exist like electric companies. They send the “electricity” to major companies to power their websites.

There are three major cloud companies: Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. If any of those three go down, major chunks of the web go down with it. In just 2020 alone, there were more than 26 major incidents that affected people worldwide.

An Amazon Web Service outage last November took down everything from robot vacuums to online banking for several hours. A Google Cloud outage in June impacted giants like Twitter and UPS.

How do we stop this from happening? The short answer is it’s up to companies to try and build in fail-safes to stop it.

Amazon, Microsoft and Google all have tried and prevent these issues, but like electric companies, sometimes power outages do happen.

To technologist and public data access activist Carl Malamud, the AWS outage highlights how much Big Tech has warped the internet, which was originally designed as a distributed and decentralized network intended to survive mass disasters such as nuclear attack.

“When we put everything in one place, be it Amazon’s cloud or Facebook’s monolith, we’re violating that fundamental principle,” said Malamud, who developed the internet’s first radio station and later put a vital U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission database online. “We saw that when Facebook became the instrument of a massive disinformation campaign, we just saw that today with the Amazon failure.”

Amazon has still said nothing about what, exactly, went wrong this week. In fact, the company limited its communications Tuesday to terse technical explanations on an AWS dashboard and a brief statement delivered via spokesperson Richard Rocha that acknowledged the outage had affected Amazon’s own warehouse and delivery operation but said the company was “working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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