One Time, Pakistan Accidentally Brought Down YouTube Worldwide
Facebook went down for hours last week. The mystery of what happened sent many people reading up for the first time on just how the web works. Many of these people were then overwhelmed by descriptions of "IP routes" and "DNS servers," and they immediately turned their computers off and went outside, which was surely the best for everyone.
But if you are at all interested in the internet, you might like to know about a previous time a major site went down for two hours without the wider web taking damage. It was in 2008, and it was because Pakistan wanted to delete a YouTube video.
The video insulted Islam, claimed Pakistani authorities. We don't have access to the video now, but it allegedly featured the 2005 Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammed, over which protesters rioted and killed dozens of people. Pakistan didn't have the means to take down that video specifically, and they refused to wait on YouTube doing it themselves. So they figured the best course of action was to block YouTube throughout the country.
Normally, when you type a site name ("youtube.com"), your network provider translates that into the site's numerical address ("22.214.171.124"), so your browser knows what page to open. To block YouTube, Pakistan's telecom authority made it so anyone in the country who typed that name got the wrong address.
Then the signal they sent out, which said they had authority over how people access YouTube addresses? It went rogue. It reached Hong Kong, which accepted this "false broadcast" as true, and it spread outward from there. Within minutes, the whole world was letting Pakistan display their dummy page instead of showing YouTube.
That exact failure probably isn't going to happen ever again. But as Facebook shows, websites can still break down. The only rational thing to do is to subscribe to email newsletters to make sure you'll never be cut off entirely.
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