When the internet breaks and stakes keep rising
iCloud was down yesterday, Facebook’s family of apps couldn’t load images the day before, a Cloudflare outage caused problems across the internet the day before that, Slack was down last week… it seems downtime for the services we rely on is bang on trend right now.
There’s no suggestion these outages are linked in any way. Usually we don’t get a public explanation for why these services stop working, but when we do, human error is often to blame. That was the case with the Cloudflare downtime
, which reportedly took 10% of the global internet with it. It was a bad day at the office for someone there.
Such stories are a reminder that the apps and services we increasingly rely on are held together by string, sticky tape, and engineers being in the right frame of mind to get everything right. It’s fine to talk about the potential for nation-state hackers to take down power stations, but a dumb mistake by someone who didn’t get enough sleep last night is far more likely to cause us serious problems.
When my home internet router died last week, my ISP booked an engineer to come round the next day. But the customer support rep asked me something that’s stuck with me. I don’t remember his exact words, but they were along the lines of: ‘does anyone in your house rely on an internet connection to operate equipment critical to their health?’ Presumably if I’d have said yes, they’d have got someone round the same day.
While ISPs sell internet connections on all the browsing, TV viewing and gaming you can do, that question was a reminder that even even technology we use to stay healthy — or alive — can require an internet connection these days.
The benefits of an increasingly internet-connected world are undeniable, but when a silly mistake breaks our connectivity, we should remember that the stakes are just going to keep getting higher.