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Cloudflare WARP VPN: What it is, what it does, and is it worth the hype?

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The popular internet security company Cloudflare received much attention when they announced they were developing WARP, their new mobile app that is supposed to act as a VPN by securing your phone’s Internet traffic, while promising faster connection speeds. Prior to its release in the last quarter of 2019, WARP already had two million people on the waitlist wanting to try the app.

But with all the fanfare surrounding the app, it pays to understand what exactly Cloudflare WARP is and what it does to protect your online security. As we will see later, WARP is not like the traditional VPN that you may already know about. Here we will get to know if using WARP will work for you, whether you’re a tech expert or a VPN newbie. 

The basics: Cloudflare’s 1.1.1.1 app and DNS service

Cloudflare developed WARP not as a standalone app, but as part of their existing app called 1.1.1.1. This simple app offers a DNS service apart from your internet service provider’s that can make your connections to the internet noticeably faster. 

DNS (or Domain Name System) is often called the phonebook of the internet, allowing us to find the different websites we’re looking for with ease. All of the internet addresses are written in IP numbers like 168.212.226.204, which we don’t have the time or the dexterity to memorize. DNS servers are needed to translate the things we type (like www.facebook.com) into one of those IP addresses. 

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Depending on their traffic and efficiency, different DNS resolvers vary in how fast they can translate these addresses. A big part of that waiting time after typing in a web address in your browser is for DNS resolution. Although oversimplified, this is how fast DNS servers can make a difference in your connection speeds. 

Cloudflare’s 1.1.1.1 app is one of the leading DNS resolvers out there available. Aside from being the fastest resolver on a global scale, it’s also the second-largest DNS service — second only to Google’s own public DNS service.  

WARP technology and VPNs

The 1.1.1.1 app on its own was already a strong resolver, but with the addition of WARP technology, Cloudflare also promised another layer of resolving performance and VPN security. But what WARP exactly does as a VPN has caused some confusion in the community. What is this new technology capable of precisely?

To answer that question, we must first define what VPNs are. A VPN (or Virtual Private Network) is a network tool that uses the internet to allow you a direct and secure connection to a remote and private network. This makes your data invisible from any snoopers in the networks between you and your endpoint. 

In technical terms, this is what a VPN is. For added layers of security, some VPNs also encrypt and anonymize your traffic and address. This is where those VPN byproducts that you may be familiar with come from, like hiding your IP address or accessing geo-restricted content from streaming services. 

WARP is a VPN because it gives that security layer of a direct connection to the DNS service of the 1.1.1.1 app. If users enable WARP in the 1.1.1.1 app, instead of just DNS queries being secured and optimized, now all internet traffic is secured and optimized.  

However, WARP wasn’t designed nor marketed to be a full VPN that can hide your location, for example. In fact, Cloudflare actually promotes it to be the “VPN for people who don’t know what V.P.N. stands for.”

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WARP’s selling point

Part of the success and popularity of the WARP technology in 1.1.1.1 is probably due to its straightforwardness and user-friendliness. Most users are not familiar with the hard details of a VPN, but only want that layer of security when they are browsing the internet. Cloudflare had these types of users in mind when developing WARP, which really maximized their market for the simple VPN.

WARP is not really meant for the techie that wants to know details like what exact server their traffic will go through. The WARP interface is really just an ON/OFF button. Tap ON and WARP will start protecting your data from any potential onlookers. It is truly meant for the millions of users out there who simply want to be a bit more secure on the Internet. 

The basic version of Cloudflare WARP comes with the 1.1.1.1 app as a completely free option. For a free package, it does pack some weight by being a VPN that does not slow down your connections or use up too much battery, as some VPNs for mobile phones are notorious for. 

A premium paid version of the app is also available called WARP+ — which promises much faster DNS resolutions of the 1.1.1.1 app. WARP+ does this by using Cloudflare’s own virtual network and proprietary Argo Smart Routing technology to avoid network congestion. Argo has previously recorded an average of over 30% increase in speed from web assets, and this technology is made available to you through WARP+.

Should you use Cloudflare WARP?

The 1.1.1.1 app with WARP VPN security is definitely a great DNS resolver if you want your connections faster and — with WARP technology — more secure. So if that is what you’re intending, Cloudflare’s 1.1.1.1 is one of the leaders in the field that you can check out for free. And if you’re a user who simply wants an added layer of protection for their data, WARP is an easy, no-brainer way to achieve that.

But as a VPN, Cloudflare WARP may not be what you’re looking for if you wanted anonymous browsing or access to geo-restricted content. When enabled in the 1.1.1.1 app, WARP protects all of your internet traffic from any data sniffers in your network, but it does nothing to hide your identity or your location. If you’re looking for a full VPN, there are a lot of great options available in the market, whether free or premium paid. 

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