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What is error 503? ‘Service unavailable’ message explained after Reddit and Amazon go down amid Fastly outage

2 min read

Internet users across the world were left puzzled on Tuesday by a major internet outage, with sites including The Guardian, The New York Times, Amazon and CNN all down.

Reports indicated that the data centre provider Fastly was experiencing problems, with many websites linked to the organisation showing an ‘error 503 service unavailable’ message.

But what does this frustrating message mean? Here’s everything you need to know.

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Reddit, Amazon and Twitch down: Major internet sites temporarily reported 503 errors after Fastly problems

What is an error 503 message?

Internet users around the world are being confronted with the message (Photo: NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty)

An error 503 message means something is preventing the browser from accessing a particular website’s server.

Usually, this means that a server is unable to handle the information request, but a solution to this problem isn’t simple.

An error 503 message may also occur if a server is still online, but has insufficient capacity to support the number of hits on a website.

This sometimes happens when a website that normally only experiences low traffic is suddenly overwhelmed with high numbers of visitors.

Although unlikely to be the source of this morning’s problems, misconfigured web apps may also cause a 503 error to appear.

Elsewhere, regular 503 errors could indicate a problem with the domain name system, such as an incorrect server configuration or an issue with a server itself.

Do this morning’s messages mean there’s a problem with my computer?

Due to the sheer volume of major internet sites affected by the outage, it’s highly likely that the problem is due to a broader technical issue, rather than an issue with your computer.

How do I fix an error 503 message?

FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2020 file photo, an Amazon logo appears on an Amazon delivery van in Boston. Amazon said Tuesday, June 1, 2021 that it will stop testing jobseekers for marijuana. The company, the second-largest private employer in the U.S. behind Walmart, is making the change as states legalize cannabis or introduce laws banning employers from testing for it. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
Large parts of the internet have gone down this morning (Photo: AP)

Under normal circumstances, it’s simply a case of refreshing the page and remaining patient until the problem is resolved.

Due to the scale of today’s problem, it may take some time to fix the issue completely.

Which websites have been affected by the outage?

Some of the world’s major news, tech and social media websites were affected by the wide-ranging outage.

These included: Amazon, BuzzFeed, The Guardian, New York Times, The Independent, CNN, Etsy, Financial Times, Pinterest, Reddit, Spotify, Twitter, Twitch, the UK Government website and Le Monde.

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