The major incidents on the Internet in 2008

We have gathered 10 of the most noteworthy incidents on the Internet in 2008. This was another eventful year, full of its share of accidents and incidents that disrupted the Internet and the WWW. We have included problems ranging from website outages and service issues to large-scale network interruptions. You are sure to recognize several of them.

Let’s get right to it!

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. This incident reminded us all how dependent we are on the actual cabling that interconnects the various networks that make up the Internet. Further cable cuts in the same region followed, sparking various conspiracy theories.

The YouTube IP hijacking

This may very well be the most bizarre incident of the year. 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 data center

Probably the most massive data center outage of the year happened in June, when an explosion and electrical fire in one of The Planet’s data centers 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 didn’t exactly help. In addition to this, services that depended on DNS servers located in that data center were also affected.

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. Just as with Amazon’s problems (see below) these issues have sparked additional debate around the current viability of so-called cloud services (and SaaS).

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. Another reason these problems got a lot of attention is of course also that a lot of services use Amazon S3, so just like when a hosting company or data center has an outage, a lot of sites are affected. 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 over Georgia’s membership in NATO spilled over 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 attackers were unknown but the motive was likely political: among the messages flooding the websites was “win+love+in+Rusia.”

SiteMeter script crashing popular blogs

In August, an update to SiteMeter’s script (websites can have it included on their pages to get visitor statistics) started crashing popular blogs like Gawker, Lifehacker, Gizmodo, Valleywag and Problogger for Internet Explorer users. Presumably every single website using SiteMeter had this problem. 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 email) 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 publicized, 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 data center 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 data center 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.


The incidents we included in this list are just the tip of the iceberg. Every year, thousands of websites struggle with unexpected downtime, and hundreds of networks break or have other issues. And as if the “regular” problems were not enough, we have the man-made problems, like the peering disputes between Cogent, Telia and Sprint that we mentioned, or the DDoS attack on Georgian official websites.

Let us hope that 2009 will be an uneventful year in this respect. One can dream, right?

Do you feel we missed something major? Let us know in the comments!

Remember the major incidents of 2007? Go back and have a look…


  1. Internap’s NY Data Center November power outage is extremely significant given the fact that it’s not the first to plague Internap.

  2. This is a very interesting article. It just goes to show how fragile our *internet* world is! I had no idea on a lot of these but I do remember wondering last summer what was making everything so slow.

  3. Great compilation with the right text length. You should compile something like an top list e.g. sorted by outtage time or impact.

    I like your blog. If your products are as well as your blog, they must be great.

  4. @Roland: Thank you for the kind words. 🙂

    Your suggestion regarding a list sorted by outage time/impact is interesting, but for many of the outages in this specific article it’s hard to judge the complete extent of the incident, both time wise and impact wise. Not to mention that often that information simply isn’t available. Perhaps some form of “longest outages for websites” post would be possible, though, with the right research. It’s an interesting suggestion.

    @Phil: You’re right, that was significant, though perhaps that can’t really be called an “outage” per se. It definitely was an “incident” though! We actually wrote about the McColo spam issue here in this blog:

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