CloudFlare is an internet network you've barely heard of. However more than just a content delivery network, the service optimizes huge parts of the web to be delivered, and blocks hacker and malware attacks, provides analytics and much more. And the service that is growing like wildfire.

A year ago, CloudFlare served nearly five billion page views a month. Today, it serves content to over 65 billion pages per month.

“We have more traffic than Amazon, Wikipedia, Twitter, Zynga, AOL, Apple, Bing, eBay, PayPal and Instagram combined,” chief executive Matthew Prince tells VentureBeat. “We are about half a Facebook, and this month we will surpass Yahoo in terms of pageviews and unique visitors.”

And it's all based on a foundation of free.

Most of CloudFlare's 1,500 new daily customers pay the company precisely zero dollars… and never will. And that's great, because they're the best marketing the company has ever had.

“Right after we launched we got a huge wave of applications from Turkey, all adult websites, Turkish escort services,” says Prince. “We called a webmaster and he explained that because the countries are liberal in government but have a conservative population, their services were legal but they were hated.”

To escape the denial of service (DoS) that Turkish hackers started, escort services turned to CloudFlare. And then they told all their friends.

“We started having some small Turkish company,” Prince said, “and they pay us a little bit.” Big companies followed, paying more, and today CloudFlare powers the websites of almost every political party in Turkey, many big companies, and several big government websites… all bringing in considerable revenue.

But it's not just about marketing. It's also about the data.

Later that year, CloudFlare hosted the EuroVision final. Organizers, who typically receive 150 million visitors in the final weeks of the singing competition, were dealing with a denial-of-service attack. They heard about CloudFlare, and they signed up and five minutes later, they were back online.

When CloudFlare engineers analyzed the attack, they realized that the work they had done to secure Turkish escort sites was a key piece of the puzzle securing EuroVision. In other words, free users' data protected big users with paid accounts.

That's how the 65 billion pages served make sense.

But if you're going to serve many pages, they better be very, very efficient. CloudFlare doesn't reveal how many servers the company has, but Price said the company has 14 data centers as of today, with nine more to be added over the next 30 days. And, he told VentureBeat, the company still has the vast majority of the US$ 20 million in venture capital that was added in 2011.

“Our cost to serve a million pages is about US$ 7, and that includes hardware depreciation, wages, bandwidth, and more,” Prince told VentureBeat. “This is a metric I follow very closely.”

For US$7 to deliver a million pages is almost unbelievably efficient and Prince says the number is about 10 times more efficient than Google or Facebook. It adds the caveat that they're doing a few different things than CloudFlare, but it's still a surprising statistic.

Perhaps Google and Facebook will soon call to hand over their pages to CloudFlare.

Sources: | Cloudflare – | Translated by Team