Amazon Caused an Internet Blackout with a Typo

Posted on Mar 06, 2017

You may have been a victim of the pretty massive Internet blackout last week. Nearly half of all the websites on the Internet shut down when the servers that powered them were taken offline. The cause? A typo.

Amazon says typo knocked AWS sites offline at

Amazon released after the blackout a statement stating that the blackout happened after Amazon’s web hosting service, S3, accidentally took down several websites. Members of the S3 team had been debugging the billing system. To do this, a small number of servers had to be taken down temporarily. After entering the wrong command, a larger number of servers than originally intended were taken down. These servers supported websites like Trello, Quora, Giphy, Benmo, and other major websites.

The error was not elaborated, but because of it, all systems had to be restarted in full after the error was made, causing the blackout to last for more than four hours. Although the S3 was able to handle server loss easily, the massive restart was what really took up most of the time.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the blackout "cost companies in the S&P 500 index $150 million, according to Cyence Inc., a startup that specializes in estimating cyber-risks. Apica Inc., a website-monitoring company, said 54 of the internet's top 100 retailers saw website performance slow by 20% or more."

Following this error, Amazon reassured its customers that they will improve S3 to be able to recoup more quickly. The company also declared a “war against typos.”

A while back, we featured a blog emphasizing on the perils of typo. And although modern language as well as Internet culture seem to be more accepting of typos, this is only one of many reasons that they should be avoided rather than encouraged.

There are only two known ways to deal with a typo: correct them as soon as they’re made or avoid making them in the first place. Amazon, being unable to avoid the typo, made an excellent call in admitting to the error as soon as they were able to.


Disclaimer: Image is not ours. Credit to the owner.

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