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Principled. It’s one of Cloudflare’s three core values (alongside curiosity and transparency).
It’s a word that we came back to quite a bit in thinking through a question that has been foundational in driving us for this year’s Platform Week: what makes a truly great developer platform?
Of course, when it comes to evaluating developer platforms, the temptation is to focus on the “feeds and speeds” part of the equation. Who is the fastest? Who has the coolest tech? Who lets you do stuff that previously you could not?
Undoubtedly, these are all important questions. But we realized that the fun and shiny things which are often answers to these questions can easily become distractions from the true promise of developing on the Internet — and even traps that the less principled developer platforms can use to lure you into their arms.
The promise being, of course: that you can pull together solutions from a variety of different providers, to build something greater than what you’d be able to do with any one of them alone. That you can build something based on whatever is best when you sit down to create your application. And of course, if something better subsequently comes along, then you can switch to it and take advantage of that, too. When you think about it, it makes sense: all the Internet really is a network based on a common set of standards that allows us all to talk to each other.
And yet, when it comes to the cloud platforms, it feels like we’re further away from that promise than ever before.
How did that happen?
When you start to think about why: well, many of the winners of the cloud have become too big for their (and our) own good. The same players that were underdogs have become incumbents — not just bending the world to their will, but sticking to their assumptions of what the world looked like a decade ago. We went from a highly competitive environment, with an even distribution of power, to something entirely unbalanced. Somewhere along the way, Hotel California became the theme song of the cloud: a friendly face welcomes you in… and then you can’t leave.
This manifests in many ways.
Sometimes it takes the form of egregious egress fees, where you are stuck with using in-ecosystem tooling instead of the best tool for the job. We don’t believe in that. We want an Internet that allows for specialization, where developers can use the best across several offerings, bringing together those services to build something incredible. But that requires giving developers freedom of choice: without hidden pricing considerations pushing you to stay with large, incumbent vendors. In fact, in many respects, freedom of choice is the promise of the Internet for developers.
We want to get back to that.
But it’s not just pricing. Other times, lock-in happens through the code or APIs needed to build with a service. Developers tie their applications to the services that power them, and eventually, without you even realizing it, it becomes incredibly cumbersome to switch off. We’ve watched the Internet become more proprietary, where vendors offer products as a service without the ability to run them anywhere else. Of course, that’s where standards come in, defining the same language and behavior across vendors.
Developers win when we open up the APIs we support and languages we speak, and rally several competing options around a common set. Continuously winning a developer’s business shouldn’t be because you’ve made someone dependent on you, and they can’t get out — it should be because what you’re offering is better than the alternatives.
When that happens, developers win.
This Platform Week, we don’t want to deliver on just new and shiny things (though there will be a few of those, too!). We want to deliver on principles. On letting the best solution win. On breaking developers out of lock in: whether because of code, or because of economics.
To get this right, we must start at the very beginning — the foundation. Everything we do is built on the foundation of the open web and open standards. That’s not something we take lightly, and certainly not something we take for granted. We decided the right way to kick this week off would be by giving back, and helping do what we can to help push the web, and those open standards forward.
So, that’s the foundation. But now you need the right blocks to build on it.
There’s one building block we know you’re excited about, it’s data. And we are too, which is why we’ll be giving you an update on a certain something we’ve had in beta the last little while. And that’s not all, either: there may even be a sequel.
Data is one thing, but applications need to share that data with services to extract value. This week we’ll make it easier and cheaper to connect the pieces of your stack together, enabling the sending of information where you need it, when you need it.
As we all know, the reason we all work so hard as developers is to enable that most critical of functionality: sharing pictures and videos of cats and babies. There are always better ways of doing it though, and we’re going to dedicate a whole day to new ways to upload, stream and share these gems.
And finally, we want to help the Internet become more programmable. Platforms offer real customizability to the developers they serve: enabling them to do things that the platform creator itself never envisioned. When you work with the application services component of Cloudflare, you can customize bot scores, load balancing rules, routing — all by programming our network. And we’re not just talking about relying on APIs to do things that we, the original developer, initially envisioned. We’re talking about true programmability. Whether you want to build a customized bot within an existing chat application, or a bespoke experience on an eCommerce website builder, we’re excited to move development beyond the era of the API into true programmability, beyond our walls, right across the web.
But back to it: principled.
Yes, we’re going to be delivering this week on all the innovation that you’ve come to expect from us. And you know what we can’t wait to see? All the amazing things you’re able to build — but it won’t just be on us. In fact, it might not be on us at all, and that’s completely ok. What we’re excited about is you building things on all the incredible providers out there, the ones that are equally dedicated to helping build a better Internet for all developers.
We can’t wait to show you what we have in store.