Cloudflare TV

🌐 Welcome to Impact Week

Presented by Matthew Prince, Patrick Day
Originally aired on 

Join Matthew Prince (CEO & Co-Founder, Cloudflare) and Patrick Day (Senior Policy Counsel, Cloudflare) for an Impact Week fireside chat.

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Visit the Impact Week Hub for every announcement and CFTV episode — check back all week for more!

Impact Week

Transcript (Beta)

Hi, everyone. Welcome back to Cloudflare TV. My name is Patrick Day. I'm on the policy team here at Cloudflare in Washington, D.C.

Very pleased to be joined by Cloudflare co-founder and CEO, Matthew Prince.

We're both here to talk about Impact Week, in fact, to launch Impact Week.

A lot of cool things to talk about. A lot of cool announcements stacked up for this week.

So, Matthew, thank you for joining us this morning to sort of set the frame for us and get us headed in the right direction.

One of the first things I wanted to ask you about, you, as you have with other Innovation Weeks here at Cloudflare, you put out a blog post on Sunday.

And one of the stories I was not familiar with was the Committee to Protect Journalists.

You had a meeting with them back in 2012. Sort of, if you could, for folks who haven't seen the blog, it's up on the website now.

But for those who haven't, if you could sort of walk us through that meeting, what you remember, how that sort of guided you on the path that led us here to Impact Week.

Yeah, sure.

So, Patrick, first of all, thank you so much for doing this. And you've been really instrumental in pulling together Impact Week, along with Alyssa and Doug and a whole bunch of other people on the team.

And it's a ton of work behind the scenes.

So, I really appreciate you taking all the time to do that. So, as I said in the blog post, when we started Cloudflare, we weren't, to be totally honest, we weren't thinking about sort of our societal impact.

We weren't thinking about anything else.

We really thought, well, there's this opportunity that the world is going to shift from on-premise hardware to services in the cloud, and we could build a set of services.

And wouldn't that be a great business? And Michelle and I were business students at the time.

And I think that was what motivated us. I think the challenge that we had was, we knew that in order for it to be a great business, we needed to get large, the Fortune 500 to sign up.

But in order to get them to sign up, we needed data.

And in order to get data, we had to have customers. And so, we had this sort of chicken and egg problem.

And the way that we solved it was, we made a portion of Cloudflare service free, and it's been free ever since.

And the idea was, let's take small businesses, individual developers, and get them to sign up.

And they won't pay us much, but they get very small attacks. That will give us the data from those small attacks to help protect larger and larger attacks.

And then big customers will sign up, and they'll spend lots of money with us.

And that's how we'll make this into a good business.

And it generally lined up. Small customers got small attacks, and they didn't spend much with us.

And large customers got large attacks, and they spent a lot with us, and it worked out.

But there was this sort of weird set of customers that we didn't expect that were small organizations, but they got these really, really, really large attacks.

And one group that would refer a lot of these sort of free customers to us was the Committee to Protect Journalists, which is an incredible organization.

As I said in the blog post, if you ever want to be really depressed, sign up for their newsletter, because these folks are stepping in in some of the hardest situations where there's a journalist that has been either kidnapped or, unfortunately, all too often killed.

And they're the ones that go in and basically negotiate to get them back or to pay the ransom to get them back or go in and, unfortunately, all too often recover the body.

And I met the director at some point, and they would every once in a while send people over to us.

And to be honest, we didn't really think much about it.

And one day in 2012, the director at the time called and said, hey, do you want to meet three of the Cloudflare customers?

And we were running around doing so many things at the time.

I was super busy, and I really wanted to say no.

And Michelle was like, Matthew, you need to, I mean, they're customers.

You got to meet them. You got to learn what they're doing. And if they're willing to come in and talk to us, let's do it.

We started the company, our first offices were in Palo Alto, and then we moved up to San Francisco.

And the director brought in these three African journalists.

One was from Angola.

The other was from Ethiopia. And the third, they wouldn't tell us his name or where he was from.

And the director just kind of drops, you know, because he's currently being hunted by death squads.

And I remember just being like, excuse me.

And all three of them, like two of the three, like they all came up and hugged me.

Two of the three had tears in their eyes. And we sat, we ended up sitting in a meeting for in a corner conference room at 665 3rd Street, which was where our office was.

And they just told stories of, you know, the work that they were doing to, you know, monitor for largely government corruption in their home countries and report on it.

And they kept saying over and over again, you know, without Klapler, we wouldn't be able to do our work because every day, whether it was, you know, the majority government or powerful institutions that they were trying to cover, they would try to shut them down, you know, in the extreme hiring death squads to track them down.

But in the more basic, just launching cyber attacks and DDoS attacks and things to silence them.

And, you know, I mean, you know, I was in the meeting by myself at first.

And I, by the end, had called like most of our small team in to sit and hear these stories because, and I kept being like, can you say that again?

Like, can you repeat that? And so Michelle came in, a whole bunch of people came in.

And I remember just thinking, wow, you know, I mean, they were very polite and they laughed and we gave them Klapler t-shirts and stickers and all kinds of things, you know, as on the way out the door.

And I mean, I went to Michelle and I was like, what have we gotten ourselves into?

Because, you know, all of a sudden, you know, this little company, which, I mean, I think we had, you know, 25 people at the time or something, we were tiny.

It felt like we were at the center of a lot of the hardest, you know, political issues in countries across, in this case, Africa.

But, you know, as we dug into it more, you know, more and more, we saw that, you know, some of the good that the Internet does is making people aware of some of these really important journalistic stories.

And there are powerful forces that don't want those stories to come out. And so they try to try to shut them down.

And before Klapler, there really wasn't a solution.

And again, I think we started out thinking, gosh, we're going to help, you know, shine light on government corruption across Africa or wherever.

But, and frankly, you know, I think had we thought about it ahead of time, we would have thought, well, that's a whole can of worms and set of thorns of problems that, you know, for building a business, we probably wouldn't have intentionally signed up for.

But I think having started in that place, you know, it really made us think about the importance of the Internet and the importance of making sure that, you know, that just because you don't have a ton of resources, that you still have the ability to get your message out.

And I think it was part of what made it so that when we thought about policy questions and other issues, you know, we from an early time always ask ourselves, you know, if Klapler were running the entire Internet, what would be the right policy?

And that was, you know, when it was 25 of us in a dumpy office in San Francisco, that seemed pretty absurd.

But I think that that's, and even today, you know, I think it's crazy, but I think it does, it does serve, it has served us well, and it's part of how, you know, how we prioritize things like impact.

One of the things I thought was so interesting what you said there is taking you back to that moment where you realize that you are, you know, an office of 25 people, you are in the crosshairs of these state-sponsored attacks.

And while, you know, a worthwhile cause and important protection, particularly when people come to visit you and tell you how important it is, was there ever a hesitation there that, you know, we are inserting ourselves into these, as you mentioned, powerful forces, or was it more of like a galvanizing moment where you sort of, you know, we need to press forward?

How did it hit you? I think both is the answer. I mean, it was right around that same time also that, you know, the FBI had showed up at our door with a national security, with actually two national security letters.

And again, I think there's a proper role for law enforcement and there's, and if you have, you know, law enforcement that is checked against courts, it makes a lot of sense.

But national security letters were really problematic for two reasons. They had a gag order that meant that you couldn't talk about them, you know, indefinitely at the time.

And they also had no real check against, it was the executive branch basically saying, you must do X.

And there was no check with the judicial branch or the branch.

So there was a real significant due process problem. And I mean, I was, it's really scary when the FBI shows up at your door.

And the easy thing to do is just to say, yeah, we'll comply with this.

And again, I think we worked really with legitimate law enforcement for a long time, but this was just wrong.

And I remember saying to our board at the time, and this is a really problematic system that is in place and we should sue, you know, the federal government.

And I'm thankful that we had investors and a board that agreed. That again, in retrospect, seemed a little crazy.

But I think that if, I think in part, there was a series of things that were all kind of happening and gelling right around that same time where we thought, wow, we really need to be thinking about what the future of the Internet as a whole is, and setting a good example.

And even though the easy thing would be just to say, yes, and forget it never happened and never tell anyone about it.

I think that right around that time, our business started to shift from being, you know, I mean, we're still a for-profit company.

I mean, it's still important that we build a great business. But it's also, you know, we do have a duty at the same time to look out for other stakeholders, you know, and that includes, you know, all Internet users around the world, because I think that it's critically important that we make sure that the Internet can be what was there.

And again, I think we're fortunate that there are more and more services like Cloudflare that are online to protect people.

But back in 2012, there just really wasn't a good option.

The resources the attackers had had gone way up and the defense, you know, was really reserved for those people with fat wallets.

And so I think that, yeah, there's been a lot of times over, I think that we've had the number of times where, you know, it is so clear that there was a well-resourced, you know, government actors on the other side that's fighting back against us.

And we're helping keep online some, you know, something that they don't like, but is, and largely because it's talking about, you know, some abuse internally.

I think that that's, every one of those times to this day is still scary. But I think that it has both helped us realize again, the importance of what the Internet is.

And then in addition to that, it's also just made us better at doing our jobs because if you can stand up to, you know, national governments attacking, you know, citizen journalists, then that helps us protect our largest customers as well.

That's great.

That actually is a great segue into the next question I wanted to ask you, but before we left the protecting journalists, I don't know if I told you this before I came to Cloudflare.

As you know, I worked in the U.S. Senate. I worked for U.S.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen. I worked on military and foreign policy issues for her right about that time.

I'm sure folks are familiar with James Foley, who was from New Hampshire.

He was a journalist. He was taken first in Libya, but then in Syria, tragically lost his life.

So having seen that up close in terms of family effect and what tools are available to protect journalists while they're doing that important work, I, you know, it personally hits home for me that so many people use what's now Project Galileo and the work that Cloudflare is doing.

So anyway, but I did want to shift sort of back to Impact Week. One of the things we, the policy team, had a chance to meet Maria Idle, who's a board member at Cloudflare.

She's obviously an incredibly distinguished leader, particularly in this space.

She was head of Nike Corporate Responsibility and the Nike Foundation and obviously her work on the Girl Effect.

One of the things she told us was something you just alluded to was, you know, she's advised a lot of folks who are sort of putting together these initiatives or growing them or scaling their impact.

And she said, you know, one of the things that I tell people is to sort of focus in on what they do well, what they do better than anyone else, and sort of make that their superpower, including when you're trying to do good in the world and trying to do impact.

And so for Impact Week this week, we're obviously talking a lot about the network and ways that Cloudflare can leverage the network to do good in the world.

But I'm curious, as you sort of hear that, what's that one thing that sort of stands out to you about the network that Cloudflare can leverage either as part of this week or moving forward?

Well, you know, I think Marie is exactly right.

If you're a gardening supply company and you say, you know, we're going to help with child labor in East Asia, I mean, unless you're getting a lot of your gardening supplies from East Asia, I mean, it doesn't fit.

On the other hand, if you say, you know, we're going to help plant, you know, tons of trees, like that makes more sense.

So I think you have to kind of do what is part of your nature.

And I think the good news for us has been that, you know, a key part of our nature has been how do we make sure the Internet continues to function and thrive?

And so as we think about what's best about the Internet, it's how does everybody have access to it?

How do we make sure that it's fast and reliable everywhere in the world?

How do we make sure that it's secure and protected?

And then how do we make it as efficient as possible?

And so I think if those are sort of the pillars of Cloudflare, and then increasingly, you know, we're also thinking about how do we make the Internet private and protect people's privacy, those line up very much with, you know, some very important initiatives that are recognized by, you know, the United Nations or other, you know, actors that are thinking about this.

And so, you know, what we announced this morning, it's on Monday, was something called Project Pangea, which is, which, when we looked at and said, okay, what, like, why is it that still nearly half of the globe, you know, 40% of people don't have access to any Internet access, and then an even larger number might have basic access, but it is at incredibly slow speeds and don't have access to, you know, true broadband.

And that's an incredibly complicated problem.

But there are certain parts of that problem that, you know, we can, as a company, you know, help solve.

And in particular, we don't have, you know, radio spectrum rights, we're probably not going to be able to solve those sort of last mile.

But for local ISPs, for community broadband projects, all around the world, if they're trying to figure out how do we get from our local community back to the rest of the Internet, one of the challenges that they have is that they have to have some sort of connectivity to that Internet, which is what's known as transit services.

And I think, as we were thinking about what are some of the things that we could do that would make a meaningful impact, again, delivering kind of a better Internet, you know, to those communities that are underserved, being able to say, if you don't have the quality of Internet service in your community, you know, we are likely because we're in, you know, well over 200 cities now around the world, we're likely not very far from your community.

And so we can provide that connectivity at no cost. And for us, again, that's something that, you know, it feels like it's very, you know, relatively easy.

It took a lot of work for us to figure out how to do it. But once we sort of figure that out, it's relatively easy for us to provide that service.

And it's from a business perspective, you know, more people using the Internet is definitely, I mean, that's good.

Like it's, that's per se good for us. But then at the same time, you know, this, we're not gonna solve the entire problem, but if we can lower those barriers to more and more communities having access to the Internet, I mean, that feels like one of those things that I'm already incredibly proud of that we're doing.

And so like, I think what I like about Cloudflare is that we're constantly thinking about not just how do we, you know, deliver, you know, the next dollar of revenue, but also how do we tackle some of these larger problems.

And I think that when you look at sort of the iconic companies and the companies that we aspire to become, I think that they've done, they've done a lot of those things.

And Maria has been great in terms of her talking about how Nike took, you know, really what was a weakness and turned it into a real strength and used their supply chain and manufacturing around the world to really help clean up a lot of the problems with labor around the world.

And I think that that's one of those things that as we look at, you know, what we're doing and ask ourselves, how can we think about those communities that are either slow or don't have access at all, if we can lend our resources to help make that just unacceptable and bring the other 40% of the world that's not online online, then like, I just can't imagine anything that that is both better for humanity and long -term better for our, for our business.

Yeah, I think you hit on a number of really important things there.

One of the things that I'm most excited about is not only is it, you know, one of the UN sustainable development goals that you mentioned, Cloudflare is a member of UN Global Compact.

So building sustainable infrastructure, obviously that's going to mean Internet access for most of the world moving forward, but also on the human rights side, right?

We talked about this, Alyssa Starzak, our head of policy and I have been meeting with the UN BTEC project over the last year, which is their sort of technology and human rights working group talking about issues of human rights as they manifest themselves online.

And throughout all of those conversations, access to the Internet is sort of the foundational piece of whether it's freedom of expression or participation or economic livelihood, access to the Internet is sort of the key facilitator in that whole chain of positive outcomes.

So it's not just that, you know, it's good for infrastructure.

It's good. It's about, you know, it is quickly becoming akin to basic human right.

And I think that Cloudflare sort of fitting into, and this is really more, you know, classic development discipline, but fitting into that niche in terms of networking services that isn't being met, not the last mile piece, not some of the other questions, but right exactly where Cloudflare fits in sort of the value chain as part of its business, being able to do that on the community network side, I think is really exciting.

It sort of checks all the boxes, which makes it a pretty cool announcement.

And that actually, I think is going to be the next segment coming up in five minutes.

It's going to be a lot more details about Project Pangea.

There's a landing page up. If folks have questions about or want to know more information.

In our last five minutes, you know, some of the other themes you touched on that I think Impact Week will highlight some cool things going on in Cloudflare.

You mentioned efficiency. And so obviously climate is in the news quite a bit, not for positive reasons.

Obviously there's been flooding and loss of life all over the world, both in Europe and China most recently.

So the effects of climate change are manifesting themselves for us to see.

When you think about sort of efficiency, Cloudflare's business, environmental sustainability of the Internet generally, sort of what are sort of the important pieces that stick out about for Cloudflare, both as a business and then in terms of the larger picture on sustainability?

You know, I think that, you know, I, did you give that last piece, Matthew?

Is my audio still going? Yeah, you sound good. Your video is cutting out a little bit, but I think we can hear you okay.

You know, I think that in terms of the environment, you know, I have to confess that when we started Cloudflare, again, I wasn't thinking about the Internet as being a contributor to, you know, greenhouse gases or really even thinking about, you know, the power which is required in order to make the Internet work.

And it wasn't until I started racking and stacking boxes in our data centers that you realize there's a lot of energy that goes into keeping the Internet online.

And I think that, you know, the best estimates are that it's about 2% of emissions to run the Internet, which is about the same as the aviation industry.

And so, you know, we've always been obsessed with being as efficient as possible.

And in the last five years, I think that that took on also us thinking about how can we minimize what our environmental impact is.

The good news is that the very nature of Cloudflare services makes it so that if you're using us, you're usually helping substantially decrease the amount of energy that's used to put content online.

And so, based on the sort of data that we've seen on what average consumption of processing, a bite of information are based on some studies that are out there, you know, we are significantly already more efficient.

So just putting Cloudflare in front of your existing hosting provider or others is helpful in cutting what your emissions are.

And I think the best analogy, which is not the perfect technical analogy, but it makes sense.

It's like buying from the local farmer's market, as opposed to the sort of big box, you know, grocery store.

If you can source all of your produce locally, there's obviously a lot less energy that gets burned, you know, hauling it, you know, across the country or around the world.

Same thing is true with the Internet where Cloudflare by being so close to users around the world, helps us make sure that we can deliver content as efficiently as possible and in as green a way as possible.

But I think what we realized as we were thinking about this week at the beginning of this year was that we could go even further.

And so, you know, later this week, I think we're going to be announcing initiatives that both help us make it so that Cloudflare has just a per se, you know, positive impact on the environment, not just going forward, but actually looking back over our entire history and saying, we want to be sure that Cloudflare is remembered as a company that was good for the environment.

Making sure that our customers can choose ways to minimize and both understand and minimize what their environmental impact is.

And then, you know, what I'm excited about is also working, thinking about, looking at the traffic that we see and thinking about what parts of that traffic from Internet, you know, Internet traffic generally are just wasteful.

And what are the ways that we can do that?

And, you know, we do that all the time with, you know, stopping malicious traffic.

If bots, for instance, instead of being stopped at Cloudflare's edge, had to go all the way back to an origin and generate a database request and a bunch of other things, that obviously puts a lot more load and requires a lot more energy.

And so we're always looking for ways to make that efficient.

And I think by studying that traffic, we found some other ways that we hope we'll be able to, you know, meaningfully decrease the carbon footprint of the Internet.

But, you know, we can't do it alone. Cloudflare's mission is to help build a better Internet.

Every once in a while, someone says Cloudflare's mission is to build a better Internet.

I've been told to make sure I don't make that error.

Because that word help is incredibly important. The Internet is a collection of networks, and it's a collection of effort from people all around the world working together.

And we don't aim to displace that work. We aim to hopefully be a cooperative member of that overall community.

And so, you know, when we talk about our mission, we always say that it's to help build a better Internet.

And that word help is absolutely critically important.

And I think as you think about these, the announcements that we have over the course of this week, we can do a lot on our own, but we can do even more working with other great companies.

I think that's a perfect theme to end on. We have about 30 seconds left, but so I'll just take the time to say thank you for your time.

There's a lot of exciting programming coming up on Cloudflare TV.

As part of Impact Week, we'll have announcements rolling out each day this week.

We sort of hit on the major themes about sustainability and human rights and diversity and inclusivity.

So there's a lot of exciting material.

We're going to get the hard stop here in 10 seconds, but Matthew, thank you for your time.

It's been a pleasure. Patrick, thank you.

You guys have been working incredibly hard. You, Alyssa, Doug, the entire team, thank you so much.

We couldn't have done it without you. And tune in for the rest of Impact Week.

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