Cloudflare Apps are a lot like WordPress plugins. Each App adds specific functionality to my website. Like plugins, Apps are available in multiple categories such as SEO, Security, Social & Communication, etc. Another similarity – some Apps are free, some are not.
A major difference is that unlike a plugin, which is installed and runs on my site, an App adds its functionality to my pages as they pass through Cloudflare.
Here’s an example … Most of my sites use the same basic kind-of-plain design. This is intentional, since I want user focus to be on content. On a for-fun site like Micromismanagement.com though, I’d like to add a touch of whimsy. I log into CF, select my site, click the Apps tab, and start browsing. I find an App called Particles that looks promising. Its description reads “Fill your site’s background with interactive particles”. It has 82% positive rating. Importantly for me, it is free.
I select Particles and click ‘Preview on your site’. I get a screen that shows my site with the new functionality – interactive moving background particles in this case – on the right, and configuration options on the left. I experiment with the configuration options to fine-tune the look.
I decide I like it, so I click ‘Install on all pages’. And … instead of immediately installing, CF serves a pop-up: ‘Cloudflare will share your email address with the developers of Particles’. Well, that’s damn annoying. I decide I like the App enough to risk a few spam emails. I click ‘Continue’.
That’s it. I now have cool background particles on my Micromismanagement site.
Great things about CF Apps in comparison to WP plugins:
- I don’t have to install or run anything on my site, saving me a few bytes of disk space and a few CPU cycles.
- The App provider takes care of upgrading to new versions.
- I can preview the new functionality on my site before deciding whether to install it.
- Installing and uninstalling are quick and easy.
- The new functionality is served from the CF node closest to the user for high performance.
Great things about WP plugins in comparison to CF Apps:
- Selection – there are many thousands of WP plugins are to choose from, compared to a few dozen CF Apps.
- WP plugins typically have more configuration options. For example I tried the Social Icons App but could not get the icons placed the way I wanted them on my site. I use a plugin instead.
- Many WP plugins are widely used. They are discussed in the WP user forums and elsewhere. Recommendations, reviews, and peer support for the more popular plugins are ample. By comparison, CF Apps seem to have a much smaller user base. There isn’t much discussion about them in the CF user forums, or anywhere else for that matter.
My point of view … I love the concept of CF Apps. I hope the selection continues to grow and the user base multiplies. For now though, selection is key. I can almost always find the right WP plugin for whatever I need. Particles is the only CF App I currently use.