Cloudflare for Families vows to keep malware, adult content away

Almost exactly two years ago, Cloudflare announced what many thought was an April Fools joke. It challenged carriers, ISP providers, and even Google by launching its own public DNS service with claims to being privacy-focused yet also fast. Last year it expanded that to mobile devices with WARP. For this year's "No Joke" announcement, Cloudflare is expanding its coverage not just for routing and locating Internet addresses but also keeping families safe by blocking unwanted and unwelcome content from their home networks.

A Domain Name System or DNS server is pretty much like a large address book that maps the web addresses you type in with their actual numerical address on the Internet. A consequence of that is that anyone who runs such a service can technically have a look at the traffic that goes to and from certain addresses, effectively the equivalent of snooping. That has been one of the many accusations hurled at ISP and even Google who own such DNS services and was the reason why Cloudflare introduced its DNS.

On a technical level, the DNS uses encryption, via HTTPS (DoH) or TLS (DoT), to ensure the privacy of Internet traffic. Tech reporters might be familiar with how encrypted DNS has become a hot topic even in Congress. Legal and political considerations aside, Cloudflare promises that you won't feel any loss in speed when using their privacy-first DNS, a win-win for privacy-conscious users.

That DNS, however, was meant for fast DNS lookups, not content filtering or blocking. That's what the new for Families brings to the table, giving users the option to block only potential malware (using DNS) or both malware and adult content (using instead). The reason Cloudflare is able to accomplish this and offer this service for free it pretty much the same reason it had with plain DNS: its vast network covering millions of Internet properties.

Of course, that has also been one point raised against Cloudflare's seemingly generous offering. Some have questioned the company's impartiality and conflict of interest which Cloudflare is quick to dismiss.