Anyone who doubts how much Amazon controls our lives — beyond the things we buy — just needs to consider the escalating effects of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) outage on December 7, when everything from banking apps to home connections to Christmas lights waned. Suddenly.
AWS, which provides nearly a third of all cloud computing services that businesses use online, reported an outage on the morning of December 7; The problem is that many network devices are flooded with a large amount of traffic from unknown sources. By evening, AWS said on its status dashboard that it was still “working towards a full cross-service recovery.” The next morning, major outages were fixed, although AWS remained slower than usual.
So, during most days of December 7, a wide variety of web-based services have gone idle or hibernated. Our daily routine has become completely but invisibly dependent on cloud computing, so even a partial AWS problem can cause an astonishing suspension of our normal activities. In fact, a particularly unlucky person may have found that every part of their day suffers from blackouts, interrupting normal life.
What services have the AWS outage affected?
Our hypothetical consumer, a college student, woke up late, while AWS was on a fritz, so she couldn’t order a voice-controlled coffee maker to serve up an espresso; Alexa, the Amazon assistant now built into many coffee machines, was broken. Her fridge froze, she tried and Update failed its operating system. Even her smart lights refused to turn on to dissipate the winter blues.
She had a Zoom call in the morning: a group study thing, organized via the online Meetup platform, but canceled due to Use Meetup AWS is very. To fill the time, she thought she’d watch some Netflix; No luck there either. She couldn’t order groceries on Instacart, rebook her Delta Air Lines ticket for a Christmas Eve flight, send money to her friend via Venmo, or buy meme stock on Robinhood. She was expecting an Amazon package, but the delivery drivers discovered their apps were also broken, so they didn’t know where to go or what to offer. It probably didn’t matter, because the driver couldn’t ring the Ring’s doorbell anyway.
The problems persisted. You didn’t have access to Canvas, the popular online teaching platform, so you didn’t know what you needed to study for the World Cup. Tinder didn’t even work. With all this time on her hands, she decides to complete her much-anticipated cleaning of her apartment, only to discover that her Roomba vacuum cleaner is also AWS-based.
Elsewhere, visitors to Disney theme parks were unable to check-in online or pay for purchases, according to Adele fans. thwarted In their plans to buy tickets for its upcoming tour, the online broadcast of the UBS conference had to be rescheduled, and cryptocurrency experts were unable to anxiously check the value of their holdings on Coinbase or other exchanges. (At Quartz, we had trouble sending out some of our newsletters.) A Twitter employee in San Antonio found that AWS disruptions even affected his Christmas lights.
Given the complexity of the Internet’s architecture, outages are surprisingly rare. When servers from Fastly, a cloud computing company, went down in June, it proved to be a lesson in the virtue of decentralization — the practice of distributing content across as many servers as possible. However, the AWS outage is a reminder that the Internet suffers from other types of centralization — in this case, from an overwhelming dependence on Amazon, which dominates the online services that power our offline lives.
Correction: A previous version of this stated that AWS provides cloud computing solutions to nearly a third of the Internet. In fact, it provides nearly a third of all cloud computing services that businesses use online.