Cloudflare, the Google-backed startup that protects websites from cyber attacks and speeds up website performance, wants to give app developers a way to reach its customers.
And it’s launching a $US100 million fund to jumpstart the effort.
On Tuesday, the company opened up its network to third-party developers with the launch of the Cloudflare Apps Platform.
The 6 million users on the Cloudflare network will soon be able to add a diverse array of widgets and tools to their webpages without diving into anything technical. The platform launched with a total of 50 apps, including new additions from Twitter, Pinterest, Zendesk and VigLink.
“What we realised is that not every good idea is going to come from a full-time employee at Cloudflare,” said Matthew Prince, CEO at Cloudflare. “From our perspective, it adds additional rich features to our network, which makes our network more rich to our customers.”
While the meat of the platform came out of Cloudflare’s December acquisition of Eager, a user-friendly tool that adds plugins to websites, it’s all part of a greater vision that Prince has for Cloudflare. Prince said he can imagine a future in which Cloudflare’s apps are as disruptive as Java or Apple, creating a new generation of applications that run on networks instead of devices.
“On the network — where power is cheap and bountiful,” Prince said.
Despite this vision, Prince said that Cloudflare isn’t in competition with the App Store or Google Play — popular apps like Uber and Yelp pass through the Cloudflare network as it stands.
Instead, the Cloudflare Apps Platform is really a way for developers to reach large audiences by creating new web tools for existing websites. Many of these will look like the classic in house tools that Cloudflare is known for, such as an image optimization tool that automatically resizes images to fit different devices; or a network optimization application that keeps things speedy.
The newly added Pinterest app, for example, allows users to right click on any given image on a website and save it to a Pinterest board. If you’re one of the 6 million users running a website through Cloudflare, you can add this feature to your website without changing a line of code.
But if you’re a developer and the audience isn’t enough, how about a chuck of the company’s $US100 million developer fund?
Following similar innovation drives in the early days of Java and the App Store, Cloudflare has partnered with three VC investors — New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Venrock, and Pelion Venture Partners — who will fund $US100 million in development projects, at their own discretion.