When the internet goes out, somewhere there is an obscure company at work

Post-Covid, we hardly need to be reminded of the world's interconnectedness. But yesterday we were handed such a reminder, albeit more trivial, when a chunk of the internet went dark for hours.

Many Scotsman readers work in the online world, so would have understood the issues at play quickly. For others, working in fields more remote from the digital revolution, the culprit was a problem that is barely intelligible at a company they'd never heard of, performing a task they weren't aware was necessary.

The issues were pinned on a company called Fastly. It provides a content delivery network that gets websites and mobile phone apps to work more quickly, by moving vital systems physically closer to end users. Fastly, like other similar companies, create economies of scale by providing their services to many popular websites and services, from Amazon to Paypal. But that also means they become points of weakness in the global internet, now so vital to our quality of life.

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This may come as a surprise to those brought up to believe today's internet - descended from military and academic networks designed in the Cold War - is able to route round glitches. This is, at some level, true, but extraordinary growth - and our impatience to see that webpage load quickly - has required workarounds. That has left the global internet littered with pinch points, vulnerable to exploitation and error.

And that means when those obscure companies with odd names have a problem, whether it's created by malicious actors or a technical glitch, we all do.

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