Cloudflare’s termination of contract with 8chan drew attention to building blocks of the web
California-based company Cloudfare, which is a market leader in web infrastructure, was thrust into the spotlight of international debate after abruptly terminating its contract with 8chan, the far-right internet forum known for perpetuating conspiracy theories and hate speech, in the wake of the El Paso shooting. Few of us think about the millions of servers facilitating our everyday online activity until they stop us from buying tickets to a hotly anticipated football match, music festival or theatre production. When you type a web address into your internet browser (Google Chrome, for example), your computer communicates with the server hosting that site to pull it on to your machine. The more servers supporting your site, the more visitors it can handle. While visiting the web pages of tech companies such as Facebook or Google, you’re likely using their specially-designed in-house servers. Cloudflare, a relatively late entrant in the brave new world of web infrastructure, was founded in 2009. It is among the best-known in its field, having received financial backing from the likes of Microsoft, Qualcomm and Google’s CapitalG. As of 2017, Cloudflare provided services to 19 million websites globally. Within minutes of losing Cloudflare’s global network of servers, 8chan became inaccessible and vulnerable to DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks.
How the internet works