The story behind the dog photos on Amazon’s Prime Day 404 error pages

JP Mangalindan
Chief Tech Correspondent

This year’s Prime Day may be remembered for the dogs, not the deals.

Amazon’s third annual Prime Day, a 36-hour sales event for Prime users, was supposed to kick off smoothly at 12 p.m. PT/3 p.m. ET. on Monday, but when many shoppers logged on during those first several hours, they were met with 404 error pages featuring photos of different dogs.

The sitewide problems were met with mixed reactions on social media. At best, some Prime members found humor in the canine photos, but other shoppers were justifiably less amused they couldn’t start bargain-hunting.

The dogs on Amazon’s 404 image.

In a statement provided to Yahoo Finance, Amazon acknowledged “some customers” were having difficulty shopping and that it was working quickly at the time to resolve the issue, but it did not offer a reason for the website outage. Still, it’s fair to assume Amazon.com’s cloud servers temporarily buckled under the increased web traffic around Prime Day.

As for those “Dogs of Amazon” 404 error pages? A source with knowledge of the matter tells Yahoo Finance they were cooked up a few years ago by several user experience (UX) designers, who photographed over 40 employee-owned dogs — including “Waffles” the corgi and “Barkley” the beagle — and integrated those snapshots into the error pages.

 

A canine-focused company

Dogs have played an integral part of Amazon’s company culture since its early years. In the late 1990s, two former Amazon employees — a husband and wife team — brought their Welsh corgi, Rufus, to work. Rufus played an integral part of the team, such that in 1998 and 1999, employees held up the canine and used his paw to click the mouse, officially launching some of the earliest Amazon.com pages online. (One of the buildings on Amazon’s Seattle campus is named after the dog, and his mug can found on the walls of multiple buildings.)   

Amazon now has over 6,000 registered employee-owned dogs that roam the company’s headquarters. The company caters to them with events including movie screenings and dog costume contests, as well as facilities including a 1,000 square-foot dog park.

While Amazon would probably argue its 404 error pages are simply an extension of the company’s dog-friendly culture, let’s face it: they’re also a creative way to cushion the blow whenever parts of its heavily trafficked website goes down. A dog photo certainly isn’t the same thing as that steeply discounted Instant Pot, 4K flat-screen TV or Echo speaker, but it’s better than staring at blank web page — if only ever so slightly.

More Amazon Prime Coverage from Yahoo Finance:

The best deal on Prime Day may be Amazon stock

How to tell if Amazon Prime is worth it

Chart: Amazon Prime Day depresses retailer foot traffic

JP Mangalindan is the Chief Tech Correspondent for Yahoo Finance covering the intersection of tech and business. Email story tips and musings to jpm@oath.com. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.