Oct. 4, 2011 at 3:53 PM ET
Major websites from Gmail to Facebook and the New York Times went down completely for short periods of time Tuesday.
The sources of the outages — which in some cases lasted minutes, some longer — weren't immediately known.
The DownRightNow website reported Facebook as having a "likely service disruption," and Gmail as "possible service trouble."
Msnbc.com's site also was down for awhile; engineers are investigating the source of the problem.
Even Apple's website went down for a bit Tuesday. Although part of Apple's website often gets heavy traffic following a new product announcement, which Apple did Tuesday with the iPhone 4S, the total unavailability of the site was unusual.
Hacking group Anonymous and a related group, Script Kiddies, did not share any obvious tweets — as they often do — in the wake of the outages. The latter group recently took credit for hacking the Twitter accounts of USA Today, NBC News and Fox News.
Bank of America's website continued to irritate consumers on Tuesday, the fourth day of problems for the site. Msnbc.com's Bob Sullivan notes that the bank "has steadfastly denied that the outages are the result of any foul play, as it did in March when widespread outages were reported. No hacking group has attempted to take credit for the outages, lending credence to the company’s claim."
Update, 3 p.m. PT: Some news sites — including TechCrunch — reported that strange strings of text were appearing in Whois lookups for some of the websites affected by the outage.
There was some question whether the oddities are part of some widespread hacking attack or security breach, but Dan Kaminsky, chief scientist at computer security firm DKH, explains that they are not cause for concern:
Whois is a relatively obscure service that describes the real world owners of domains. And Whois has always reported not just the domain you're looking for, but other domains that share similar strings of text.
So for as long as Whois has existed there has always been silly information like this in it -- it just happens that someone noticed it. It's totally harmless. There's no hacking going on — just a harmless prank that has been done for years. It has no baring on whatever caused today's outages.