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Cloudflare announces Warp: a free VPN that it claims will actually respect your privacy

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After announcing its fast, secure, privacy-respecting DNS resolver on April 1 last year, Cloudflare has continued that tradition this year by announcing its new free Warp VPN (virtual private network) service.

Many free VPN apps are actually data mining apps that use the lure of a free VPN to suck up all your data and use it for marketing purposes. However, Cloudflare claims Warp is different and that the freemium pricing and integration with other Cloudflare services will allow it to provide a VPN that’s free but also respects your privacy.

Cloudflare says that Warp will protect your privacy by:

  • Never writing user-identifiable log data to disk
  • Not requiring any personally identifiable information such as your name, email, or phone number to use the app (all you have to do is download the app and tap a button to get on the waitlist)
  • Securing all network traffic on your device without requiring you to install a root certificate
  • Automatically encrypting any unencrypted internet connections by default
  • Never selling your data or using it to target ads
  • Purging all debug logs within 24 hours

In addition to this, Cloudflare has a strong history when it comes to privacy and protecting user data. The company has:

  • Promised to regularly hire outside auditors to ensure the company is keeping its promises in relation to privacy
  • Regularly contributed to open source projects including the WireGuard VPN protocol which Warp is being built around
  • Made encryption free for all customers in 2014

Cloudflare claims that it’s possible to offer this strong level of privacy in the free version of Warp VPN because it’s funded in three main ways:

1. Freemium pricing for individual users

The basic version of Warp will be free to all users. However, this free version of Warp will be partially supported by a premium version of the VPN called Warp+. Warp+ will use Cloudflare’s virtual private backbone and Argo technology to provide even faster speeds.

Cloudflare says Warp+ will be available for a “low monthly fee” which will vary by region and be priced in a way that’s affordable to as many people as possible. However, it hasn’t revealed any specific pricing information for Warp+ or said when it will launch.

2. Enterprise VPN services

Cloudflare believes that it has the infrastructure to build the best enterprise VPN and will be launching an enterprise version of Warp. Many businesses require enterprise VPN services and any customers Cloudflare acquires in the enterprise space will help to fund the free version of Warp.

Cloudflare hasn’t provided any details on how enterprise pricing will work or when the enterprise versions of Warp will be available.

3. Increasing the value of Cloudflare’s other services

Growing the user base of Warp allows Cloudflare to optimize the speed, security, and privacy of the content and applications that are delivered through Cloudflare’s network. This provides more value to existing customers of Cloudflare’s core services, makes these services more appealing to prospective customers, and increases the overall value of Cloudflare’s offerings.

The increased value of Cloudflare’s core services and the increase in new customers it’s likely to bring is yet another way that Cloudflare will be able to fund the free version of Warp.

Other benefits of Warp

Cloudflare says that not only is the free version of Warp private but it’s also:

  • Faster than most other VPNs: Cloudflare claims that unlike competing VPNs which lower your internet speed, Warp will actually increase your internet performance in most circumstances.
  • More reliable than most other VPNs: Cloudflare says Warp is designed to recover from mobile dead spots and lost connections faster than many other VPNs.
  • More efficient than most other VPNs: Warp is built around the WireGuard VPN protocol which Cloudflare claims is more modern and efficient than legacy VPN protocols. It also minimizes excess use of your phone’s radio through retransmits which is something that often happens with other VPNs when you’re in an area with spotty mobile coverage. Ultimately, these efficiency gains mean Warp will use less of your phone’s battery and data when compared to other VPNs.

Potential concerns with Warp

While there’s a lot to like about Warp, there are some things to consider before signing up.

First, Cloudflare is based in the U.S. (United States). If NSA (National Security Agency) snooping is one of your main privacy concerns, then you may want to choose a VPN provider that’s based outside of the U.S.

Second, Cloudflare is currently the second largest CDN (content delivery network) on the internet. While Cloudflare says it won’t collect or sell personally identifiable data, using Warp does still give Cloudflare a lot of non-personal data which it can combine with the anonymous data it already collects through its other core services. If you’re concerned about how Warp and Cloudflare’s other services give it access to a substantial amount of the world’s web traffic data, then it may not be the right VPN for you.

How to sign up for Warp

If you already have the Faster Internet app on your phone, update to the latest version.

If you don’t currently have the Faster Internet app installed, download it from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

Once you have the most up to date version of the app on your phone, follow the steps below:

  1. Tap the “Claim your spot for a faster internet” button.
  2. Tap the “Join the waitlist” button.
  3. You’ll then be added to the waitlist and assigned a number.

As Cloudflare starts to onboard people, you’ll move up the waitlist. Cloudflare expects to make Warp available to everyone on the waitlist by the end of July 2019.

Currently, you can only get on the waitlist for the mobile versions of Warp but Cloudflare says that desktop versions of this VPN are coming soon.

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