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The ten most noteworthy web and network incidents for 2008

Antony Savvas

Website performance firm Pingdom has compiled its ten most noteworthy web incidents of 2008.

They include website outages and service issues and large-scale network interruptions.

They are:

Mediterranean submarine cable cuts

In January, a pair of cut submarine telecom cables in the Mediterranean just north of Egypt caused severe internet outages and disruptions in the Middle East, Pakistan and India. Further cable cuts in the same region followed, sparking various conspiracy theories.

The YouTube IP hijacking

YouTube was completely unavailable for roughly two hours because an ISP, Pakistan Telecom, had mistakenly claimed their IP address space (including the IP addresses used by YouTube's DNS servers). This effectively took YouTube offline in a matter of minutes. This proved that a single ISP can, under some circumstances, inadvertently sabotage parts of the entire internet.

Explosion and fire at The Planet datacentre

Probably the most massive datacentre outage of the year happened in June, when an explosion and electrical fire in one of The Planet's datacentres in Houston affected thousands of sites (around 9,000 servers), some for several days. The fire department's initial refusal to let The Planet activate its backup power generators did not exactly help.

Google Apps and Gmail trouble

Google has had numerous difficulties with its Gmail and Apps services this year, which set both the media and the blogosphere abuzz with speculation about their reliability.

Amazon S3 outages

AWS (Amazon Web Services) has become somewhat of a poster boy for cloud computing, so every time S3 (or EC2) has a problem, "The Cloud" is called into question. Some of the outages were quite lengthy for example, S3 had an outage that lasted eight hours in July.

Political DDoS attack on Georgia

The growing tension between Russia and Georgia went online when the websites of several official Georgian websites, including that of the Georgian president, were subjected to a DDoS attack that made them unavailable over an entire weekend. The real-life shooting war that followed was a bit more serious though.

SiteMeter crashes sites

In August, an update to SiteMeter's script (websites can have it included on their pages to get visitor statistics) started crashing popular blogs such as Gawker, Lifehacker, Gizmodo, Valleywag and Problogger for Internet Explorer users. This incident revealed how a third-party script can quite easily stop a whole site from working, which is a vulnerability that every site owner should keep in mind.

Apple's MobileMe launch problems

When Apple was migrating .Mac accounts to the new MobileMe, things did not go as smoothly as they would have wished. Steve Jobs has later admitted (in a leaked e-mail) that it was a mistake to launch MobileMe, the iPhone 3G, the iPhone 2.0 software and App Store all on the same day, and that MobileMe should have been given more time and testing.

Cogent peering disputes with Telia and Sprint

The ISP Cogent is a veteran of network peering disputes, and this year saw them in disputes with both Telia and Sprint. In March, a dispute with Telia was widely publicised, and October saw the start of another dispute, this time with Sprint. These peering disputes make it problematic and sometimes impossible for customers of the different networks to reach sites located on the other network. The disconnect with Sprint only lasted a few days, but the dispute with Telia lasted for two weeks.

Friendster knocked out by datacentre issues

Friendster was once the largest social network in the world, and while it may have lost its crown to Myspace and Facebook, it is still one of the largest in the world. In November, technical problems at the datacentre where Friendster hosts its servers caused the site to be unavailable for more than 23 hours in just three days, making it by far the largest incident for any social network in 2008.


 

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