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Cloudflare Turns 8 — here’s what we mean by a “better Internet”


7 min read

I have always loved birthdays. It is a chance to get together with loved ones, a chance to have fun and a chance to reflect on anything you want to keep doing or change in the upcoming year. At Cloudflare, we’ve embraced celebrating our birthday as well.

This week, Cloudflare turns 8 years old. It feels like just yesterday that Matthew, Lee, Matthieu, Ian, Sri, Chris, Damon and I stepped on stage at Techcrunch Disrupt to launch Cloudflare to the world. Since then, we have celebrated our birthday every year by giving a gift back to our customers and the Internet. This year, we plan to celebrate each day with a new product benefiting our community. Or in other words, it is a weeklong birthday celebration. Like I said, I love birthdays!

The Cloudflare team when we launched the service at Techcrunch Disrupt during September 27 to 29, 2010 – Matthieu, Chris, Sri, Ian, Lee, Matthew, Michelle and Damon.

While I can’t share exactly what we’re releasing every day — after all who doesn’t like a surprise? — I wanted to share some thoughts on how we decide what to release birthday week.

Our mission at Cloudflare is to help build a better Internet. That is a big, broad mission that means many things. It means that we push to make Internet properties faster. It means respecting individual’s privacy. It means making it harder for malicious actors to do bad things. It means helping to make the Internet more reliable. It means supporting new Internet standards and protocols, and making sure they are accessible to everyone. It means democratizing technology and making sure the widest possible group has access to it. It means increasing value for our community, while decreasing their costs. Here is more color on each:

It means that we push to make the Internet faster

As more applications go online, users expect the interactions to be fast. It is hard to imagine a world where people want a slower Internet experience. It’s the exact opposite — and will only continue.

Speed means high bandwidth and low latency. As we move along these two axes, more applications emerge. Music on the Internet was unlocked at a certain level of bandwidth. Video required more. Videoconferencing has both bandwidth and latency requirements. These technologies are reshaping entire industries — and having a impact on societies globally.

What’s exciting to me is that there are a whole host of further applications that will be unlocked as we continue to increase the speed of the internet. One of the things that will enable this is edge computing — moving the cloud closer to the internet visitors. Cloudflare released Workers a year ago (on our 7th Birthday), and we are so excited by what developers around the world are doing with it. We know a whole new set of applications are being planted right now and will emerge over the next 18 months because of this gained speed.

It means respecting individual’s privacy

When we announced, our fast and private DNS service for consumers, we were blown away by the reception in the marketplace. People do care about their privacy and they are looking for solutions that understand that. When we build a product, we always ask ourselves how does this impact an individual’s privacy? We want to be a leader in terms of privacy.

It means making it harder for malicious actors to do bad things

The promise of Cloudflare has been to band businesses, people and organizations together to be stronger than the malicious actors. It’s the first time where the resources for the good people have outweighed resources for the bad people. Today, Cloudflare offers a broad security portfolio to its customers and we constantly work to make the services we have better, and to expand our scope. You will see our development in new areas on the security front this upcoming week.

It means helping to make the Internet more reliable

While speed matters in unlocking new applications, so does reliability. There are a whole host of applications that can only be unlocked if they can depend on the internet being there. Transportation is one example; health care is another. If the internet breaks for these applications, life threatening things can start to happen very quickly, just as they would be if power was lost to these applications. But it’s not just examples where lives can get lost — if you’ve been in an office when the wifi has gone out, you’ll know that more and more businesses depend on the internet just to get day to day operations done. Cloudflare is committed to being at the forefront of a more reliable internet.

It means supporting new standards and protocols

The original internet was designed as a decentralized network. One of the principles that enabled this to happen was to have a series of open standards that everyone agreed upon, as opposed to a series of balkanized networks that were all talking their own language. The original set of principles gave everyone a common language. This open set of standards let thousands of ideas bloom, and it is part of what has made the internet so great. We’re committed to that idea.

At the same time, the Internet is over 35 years old. Many smart, talented engineers around the world have come up with new protocols and standards that are faster and safer than the original protocols. But, getting these new protocols and standards distributed is difficult. We want to help distribute and drive adoption of new standards and protocols, and make access  easier for our customers. We’ve done it with HTTPS, SPDY, HTTP2, DNSSEC and there are more to come.

It means making the internet more accessible to everyone

It is kind of crazy to think about the amount of timely information that we have access to today because of the Internet. And by and large, how it’s possible to communicate with any other person on the planet. But this only holds true if everyone is able to access the Internet. What do we mean by that? Well, it in turn breaks down into two further principles: democratization and affordability.

It means democratizing technology and making sure the widest possible group has access to it

It’s one thing to have an open standard. That, in theory, allows anyone who understands the standard to participate. But go back to the early days of the web, and you really had to be a “techie” to be able to participate.

We’ve come a long way since those days; in terms of user clients, we’ve gone from a command line interface to a supercomputer with touch screens in our pockets. But there’s more to democratizing technology than just making it easier from the perspective of a consumer. There are also all the small businesses that are now possible, that were not previously so, because these entrepreneurs can use the internet to directly reach customers. It’s enabled all sorts of products and services that were not previously possible.

Many of those businesses would not be able to start if the tools and infrastructure required to get going are beyond their technical grasp. One of the things that Cloudflare has been committed to from the start is taking complicated and technical solutions and making it easy enough for a non-technical person to use. We have wanted to expand the number of Internet properties who have access to these services. Millions of customers around the world fit this profile. We might have one of the fastest and most secure networks on the web fit for enterprises like New York Stock Exchange and IBM. But if you’re a one man shop just getting started, you shouldn’t need an IT team to be able to make your website fast and secure. With Cloudflare, you don’t have to.

It means increasing value for our community, while decreasing their costs

As the Internet grows, it becomes more valuable, and capabilities become lower cost. This is one of the powers of network effects. We have many examples of this at Cloudflare. We want more connections to other Internet providers around the world so that we can pass bandwidth savings along to our customers. Or, last year during our 7th Birthday, we pushed our DDoS mitigation technology to all of our plans, including the Free plan. This is technology that used to cost at least $10K/month. We are always looking to deliver more value to our customers. It is a daily topic around Cloudflare.

So, back to our Birthday Week. Every announcement this week ties back to helping to build a better Internet in some way. Here is a preview of this week’s releases:

  • On Monday, we are releasing something that will make the Internet more private and secure for every user.
  • On Tuesday, we are leading the way democratizing a new Internet standard, while also making the Internet faster.
  • On Wednesday, we are bringing together a coalition of partners to help our customers lower their infrastructure costs — dramatically.
  • On Thursday, our actual birthday, we are releasing a new service we hope you’ll love that provides something that every one of our customers needs, but now with the best security and lowest price.
  • On Friday, we are releasing a new product that pushes the power of the Internet forward by making it more programmable.

I often get asked what makes Cloudflare special? My answer always comes back to the people I work with and our partners who work passionately to delight our customers. The Cloudflare team comes to work every day to solve the tough challenges of the Internet to ultimately help build a better Internet going forward. This week, I am excited to share our work with all of you.

Every day, we will be posting a blog post at 1200 UTC with that day’s announcement. We will do a round up at the end of the week as well. I can’t wait to hear what you think!

The three Cloudflare co-founders: Matthew Prince, Michelle Zatlyn and Lee Holloway

Launching Cloudflare at Techcrunch Disrupt in September 2010 to a panel of esteemed judges

Matthew Prince, our CEO, presenting Cloudflare to a group of entrepreneurs.

The three co-founders, Michelle Zatlyn, Lee Holloway and Matthew Prince, at one of our office openings early on

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Michelle Zatlyn|@zatlyn

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