Building an Open Internet with Fastly's Fast Forward Program
At the very beginning of the foundation our goals have been to push the reaches of the Internet, regardless of borders, to the broadest possible audience, supporting egalitarian federated networks where, regardless of ethnicity, identity, sexual orientation, or economic background, everyone can own and control their information, and connect with one another without fear, artificial barriers, or a need to sacrifice their privacy.
In November 2022 we joined Fastly's Fast Forward Program to build faster and further, openly, and with partners who share similar goals and ideologies to our own. We believe that its not just digital networks that should be federated, but the community itself.
Fastly and the Open Internet
Fastly has been an increasingly interesting steward of the open Internet for some time by supporting (and using) open source projects, and taking on the main cloud service behemoths by providing essential components built on open standards and accessible to all.
With WebAssembly Fastly have been building capabilities on a portable set of standards and tooling (including Wasmtime) that enable developers to create more opportunities for interoperable and modular code which can both run within browsers and as traditional services within edge environments. We've been excitedly building proof-of-concepts with WebAssembly (also known as Wasm) for a number of years in the area of data processing and machine learning, validating Wasm as a foundation for common frameworks for interoperable components beyond the browser. Fastly have shown we're far from alone.
Fastly is not simply made up of a handful of projects and services though, they're comprised of vocal supporters of an open Internet that have been active for many years, as well as individuals who are directly involved in the community at a personal level. Fastly provide content delivery network (CDN) services and edge computing at an expansive scale with a focus on open tooling and a strong community.
However, before we took this step with Fastly we were fully in with Cloudflare, using a similar set of web-based tools to develop high-performance services on the edge.
Moving on from Cloudflare
Building our core infrastructure on Cloudflare was an initial step for cost-effective reach. Cloudflare provide edge computing based on web standards and WebAssembly at a global scale with minimal networking overhead. There's near zero friction to get setup and deploy a product and teams can build a near complete solution quite far before anyone needs to worry about paying the bills.
Cloudflare enabled us to build services quickly, so we could focus on our core projects without being distracted with public infrastructure and complex configurations. However, from the beginning Cloudflare has been a difficult partner to work with for reasons beyond their digital services.
In September 2022 Cloudflare announced finally that it was terminating its service agreements with Kiwi Farms, a forum that facilitates targeted hate at communities of women, neurodivergents, minorities, and LGBTQ individuals, amongst others. This came after significant pressure from the digital technology community, subsequent media publicity, and an eventual push from customers to move to alternative services. We believe people make mistakes, and companies are just a collection of people who are not always aligned, so if this was a one-time event from Cloudflare we would have evaluated the response and then decided collectively whether any actions taken by Cloudflare were sufficient.
In the case of the 2022 Kiwi Farms debacle, Cloudflare's response was unfortunately lacklustre, coming after several years of near identical cases where they provided services to far right communities and again failed to adequately respond when issues were raised. We had known people at Cloudflare who we believed would never work for an organisation who permitted these hateful communities to exist on their networks, so we were confident the worst was behind Cloudflare prior to the Kiwi Farms concerns being flagged. The Kiwi Farms issue however resurfaced the prior concerns and led us to making the decision to move to alternative providers. We started almost immediately by reaching out to several organisations, including Akamai and Fastly. Both organisations were highly recommended by the community.
Choosing Between Akamai and Fastly
Where Akamai are a longstanding industry leader, powering many established cloud services, Fastly are the incumbant provider with a fresh perspective on where the Web meets the Internet.
Although Akamai responded quicker than Fastly we were disappointed with how long Akamai took to enable us to begin moving parts of our services from Cloudflare. With no public sign-up process available at Akamai we had to discuss our requirements with their sales teams over several weeks before an account would be enabled. Although Fastly took longer to respond, we could launch services in minutes before they reached out to us. Fastly have been pro-active, and engaged with us regarding our open source work, displaying excitement and interest in what we're developing.
We genuinely see Fastly as a partner rather than simply a service provider, and believe they are the right group of people to help us launch our new projects. At the same time we use several of the same open source tools that Fastly are using, and developing.
Over the next few months we'll be updating our site with articles covering our experience using Fastly, and our infrastructure work in general.
What We're Building
In this article we've spoken about the open Internet work and why we are excited to be working with Fastly, but many people may not be aware of what we've been working on so far, and why we need the highly scalable edge computing provisioned by Fastly.
There are a lot of moving pieces, including collaborations on existing projects with various communities, and we're enthusiastic and optimistic about work our ongoing work with ActivityPub, DIDs, Solid, and Verifiable Credentials. We believe the next iteration of the Web should be federated, and has a lot of potential if it's built on the existing open and accessible standards used by billions of individuals from diverse backgrounds all over the world today.
We're working hard to empower our billions of neighbors on this planet by shifting control of data and services from corporations to individuals, enabling everyone to freely migrate their data and services between providers, networks, and borders, securely and privately. We're working across many domains, including healthcare, finance, and media with leading organisations to make this change happen in the way that best benefits the growing global netizens, and without harming the planet we currently occupy any further.
We're a non-profit cooperative built on legally binding ethical principles regarding openness, fairness, transparency, and kindness, and we hope you will join us as we work on the technical challenges ahead.