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Cloudflare is taking its massive base of worldwide data centers and turning it into a platform for deploying web applications that can be integrated into other sites and mobile apps. The Cloudflare Apps platform will let developers build applications and then serve them up to the content network’s customers around the globe.
It’s designed to provide a low-latency application serving infrastructure for things like analytics services, video embeds, and social network sharing buttons. In addition, some of the company’s investors have teamed up to launch a $100 million fund for investing in companies that use the platform.
With today’s launch, Cloudflare is expanding its massive base of customers and data centers and driving a new type of business that could shift the balance of power in the overall cloud space. Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince said that he sees this platform as a foundation for startups to build businesses on.
“When I think about it, when you’re starting a new company, you really need three things,” he said. “You need a great idea and a technology platform on which to build that idea. You need easy access to potential customers and a way for those customers to pay you, and you need capital to be able to fund your development.”
The platform will help with those first two needs, while the Cloudflare Developer Fund is supposed to help with the third. The $100 million cash hoard is provided by Venrock, New Enterprise Associates (NEA), and Pelion Venture Partners. Bryan Roberts, a partner at Venrock, said that he sees the Cloudflare Apps platform creating opportunity similar to those provided by other development tools, like Twilio, or Twitter’s firehose API.
When it comes to investing, Roberts is most looking for early-stage companies that are fundamentally good businesses, in addition to using Cloudflare’s platform.
“What we’re most interested in will be the ones that allow website owners, web app owners, mobile app owners, to make those experiences richer and be able to create more value from them,” he said.
Cloudflare Apps are (unsurprisingly) only available for use with websites that have content delivered through Cloudflare’s network. Use of the platform is free, and Cloudflare said that it won’t restrict applications based on their complexity.
One of the key benefits with these apps is that customers can have content injected into their web pages as they’re delivered to the user through Cloudflare, without any coding required. That should help speed up the performance of some applications and services, since they’re being served directly from Cloudflare’s network.
The company will make sure that the apps are safe to use, Prince said, likening Cloudflare’s process to what Apple does with the iOS App Store. In the event that an app turns out to be malicious, it would be possible for Cloudflare to automatically pull it from all of the websites that use it.
This launch is based on the company’s acquisition of Eager at the end of last year. While Cloudflare previously had an offering that let developers use its network to build and deploy apps, Prince said that the developer experience wasn’t robust enough. Eager’s technology provided a foundation upon which Cloudflare could build its platform.
The platform is already being used by a number of big name companies, including Pinterest, Twitter, Oracle, Spotify, and Zendesk. Right now, there are more than 50 apps available.
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