We regularly get requests to provide a free paid account in exchange for promoting CloudFlare. I may be naive, but I was surprised to learn how many web companies go along with these arrangements — or even suggest them themselves. To many web companies it may seem like a good deal: give someone with a big megaphone a free account and they'll tell all the people who listen to them about how great your service is. I find the practice highly dubious.
It reminds me of the so-called "payola" scandals of the 1950s. Back then, radio DJs were often paid by record companies to play their songs. The payouts weren't disclosed to radio listeners. The controversy ended with Congressional hearings, a loss of the public's trust in both record companies and radio DJs, and the practice eventually being declared illegal.
CloudFlare, as a policy, does not pay for reviews. We don't comp free paid accounts. We don't discount. And we've been very slow to create a referral program of any kind because we want you to know that when you read a review of CloudFlare on someone's site they are writing it not because we paid them but because they feel passionately about our product.
Turning the Model on Its Head
Instead of giving free accounts to a select few, we decided to turn the payola model on its head. We give a free account to everyone, regardless of the size of your megaphone or promise to write nice things about us. In the end, we believe this is a much more honest policy that builds a long-term relationship of trust.
And our free account is incredibly full-featured. A lot of people are happy using it, even for extremely large sites. What's great, though, is that after we earn the trust of our free users, many decide to upgrade. CloudFlare's goal is to help build a better Internet. We see our no-payola policy as directly aligned with that goal.