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A flaw in a little-known Amazon service is causing havoc across the web

It’s not a household name for most consumers, but Amazon Web Services plays a huge role on the web — and as I write this, parts of the service aren’t working, specifically servers on the East Coast.

AWS is a cloud computing service that allows anyone to store their data on Amazon’s massive network of servers, paying a subscription fee for the privilege. This rare outage illustrates how dependent the web has become on Amazon’s cloud computing services, which power a wide variety of websites.

AWS — specifically, a storage tool called S3 — is used by many websites to store images online. That includes some parts of Vox.com, which is why I had to publish this story without a picture at the top. Other media companies, including the Huffington Post and sites in the Gizmodo network of sites, are having similar problems.

Also affected are the popular image hosting site Imgur and the corporate messaging app Slack. A wide variety of other sites have been reported to be affected, though I wasn’t able to independently confirm most of them.

Amazon last posted an update about the problem at 2:35 pm Eastern, stating that “we continue to experience high error rates” with AWS, “impacting various AWS services. We are working hard at repairing S3, believe we understand root cause, and are working on implementing what we believe will remediate the issue.”