If anyone needed a reminder of how fragile and interconnected our modern digital world is, they got it this morning when Fastly had an outage. 

The “edge cloud platform,” as it describes itself, provides services to a wide range of highly-trafficked websites, including Slack, Stripe and the New York Times. When Fastly went down for around an hour, starting around 6:00 am Eastern time on Tuesday, thousands of sites went down with it. 

Much remains unknown about the incident. Fastly’s chief executive Joshua Bixby told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that the issue was still under investigation, although it did not appear to be cyber attack-related. But here are five important things we do know about Fastly and how it led to the disruption of much of the Internet.

The company makes websites work faster. 

Based in San Francisco, Fastly was founded in 2011 by Artur Bergman, Tyler McMullen, Simon Wistow, and Gil Penchina. The company provides high-performance content delivery network (CDN) services and “edge computing” solutions. 

Essentially, it is part of the infrastructure that forms “the cloud,” which relies on a network of data centers. Competitors include Akamai, Limelight, Cloudflare and Amazon Web Services. Fastly bills itself as being particularly speedy, as well as offering customization, which has allowed it to attract customers with high traffic demands.

“When milliseconds matter, processing at the edge is an ideal way to handle highly dynamic and time-sensitive data,” the company said in a recent regulatory filing.

Before the outage, Fastly was growing fast.

Acceleration of the digital economy during the pandemic was especially beneficial for Fastly. After going public on the New York Stock Exchange in May 2019, the company’s stock price jumped 300 percent in 2020 — a far steeper increase than its competitors enjoyed, according to Investor’s Business Daily.

Hiring activity at Fastly increased steeply in 2021 compared with prior years, according to our data. On April 30, there were 162 open positions advertised, compared with just 23 a year earlier.

Fastly’s customers include many popular sites. 

The company focuses on selling services to medium and large organizations, as well as small organizations which are expanding rapidly. As of March 31, the company had 336 enterprise customers, which generated 90 percent of its total revenue.

According to various media outlets, businesses that have signed on to use Fastly services include the New York Times, the Financial Times, Shopify, Spotify, Slack, Github, TikTok, and Ticketmaster. Numerous other websites were reported to have been affected by the outage, indicating they may also be Fastly customers. Those included Reddit, Twitch, Pinterest, Amazon, and government sites such as WhiteHouse.gov.

This is not the first time there has been an outage.

CDN providers such as Fastly generally design their systems to minimize the impact of disruptions. But widespread outages can still happen. Fastly noted in a regulatory filing that it “has not developed redundancies for all aspects” of its platform, and warned that there could be risk of interruptions or performance issues.

Fastly said it previously experienced a platform interruption affecting some customers in January 2021. The company did not disclose which customers were impacted.

Fastly tackled the problem quickly and provided updates to the public.

Approximately an hour elapsed between when the disruptions came to light and when the company first applied a fix to bring services back online. Less than two hours later, the problem was fully repaired and the issue deemed “resolved.”

The company provided updates via an incident report posted to its Twitter account. Twitter was not apparently affected by the outage, and many users relied on the platform to express frustration and poke fun at Fastly.

Dear Internet, Have you tried switching it off and switching it on again? #Fastly” tweeted the official account for British children’s series Peppa Pig.

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online, jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings, and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.

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