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Ending on a high note: exceptional stories of digital innovation from 2020

We’ve all felt how the world changed in ways we didn’t plan for in 2020 — which included moving online all at once. And that meant companies had to face the impossible, seemingly overnight. When that happened, Fastly noticed something interesting: The global business community started to realize what we in the developer community have known for some time — companies that operate with a developer-first mindset have the strategic competitive advantage, now and into the future.

We saw developers and builders around the world step up to meet the moment in a variety of ways, affirming and catalyzing this dev-centricity model for businesses. And we’re humbled to be both a witness and enabler for how devs supported their organizations, with many companies even thriving under incredibly difficult circumstances. 

I want to share some of those stories with you — not just to show you the incredible things customers have done with Fastly (though they are truly incredible) — but more to show you what developers are capable of doing when they have the trust, tools, and empowerment that business leaders can give them. 

A developer becomes not just a builder but an innovator when we put the right qualities in their toolkit. That includes:

  • Control over their own code and visibility into how it works;

  • High-performance computing power to deliver the experiences your customers demand; 

  • Scalability in the face of any surge, expected or unexpected, nefarious or real;

  • The confidence to build fast and fearlessly, which comes when security is built into your application at every turn; 

  • And simplicity: a place to build where they can move quickly without the complexity of large, unrelenting architectures. 

Let’s dig into a few of my favorite stories from this year. I hope these experiences spark big ideas and help you feel more connected to this phenomenal community into the future.

Safeguarding your health

This year put a spotlight on health — how we take care of ourselves and our loved ones, as well as the heroes in the medical community. Doximity is a company that helps these medical professionals and the patients who rely upon them by connecting with them virtually. When the pandemic hit, they saw double-digit user growth and a 30x increase in traffic on their secure calling feature — all within a few weeks. 

As you can imagine, their infrastructure and security teams needed to scale quickly and safely. To do so, they turned to Signal Sciences, now part of Fastly, which gave them the control they needed to block malicious traffic — without slowing anything down for users. In doing so, they freed up their security team so they could focus on other projects and continue providing for our medical community at a time when it’s more critical than ever.

Supporting local and taking action

Between the pandemic and social unrest, there’s been an inspiring surge of people getting involved in their communities. Gannett helped people act on those instincts by creating two new sites: Support Local allows people to support their neighborhood businesses through gift cards, and Take Action provides resources to those looking to step up when it comes to social and racial justice. By repurposing Fastly configs, Support Local was up and running in a matter of days — and Take Action was up in just one day.

Learning in place — at scale

Education is something near and dear to my own life. I have three young boys who were learning from home for five months, and I intimately appreciate the value of what amazing online resources can do for parents and children. Education, perhaps more than any other segment, had totally unexpected scalability requirements. 

Khan Academy is one of those organizations facing these sudden changes, but they were able to take on 2.5 times their typical traffic levels in the course of a week. And they were able to scale at such an unexpected, rapid-fire pace because they built on top of our edge cloud platform, which primed them for this moment.

Finding connection and inspiration

One story I love is about finding personal connection even when in-person events could no longer take place. TED Conferences is a great example of that. They made the swift decision to build a platform to live stream their events, and within just two hours of making the decision — two hours — the TED team built a live-streaming config on Fastly and had a solution up and running. That meant that the inspiring talks and thought leaders they’re known for could continue to reach people at a time when it felt so critical to have inspiration in our lives. And as part of their new platform, they mobilized experts on the pandemic to deliver talks — giving people the credible, up-to-the-minute information that was direly needed in the beginning of the pandemic.

Reliability in a time of uncertainty

The restaurant industry changed drastically this year, and the experience of dining out and meeting friends, family, and colleagues changed for everyone. Grubhub became a critical service for so many because of that: from the restaurants that needed delivery and carry-out to stay afloat, to the drivers who relied on the app for income, as well as to the everyday people who wanted to support their favorite local restaurants. 

Grubhub has always cared about the reliability of their app, but suddenly, the stakes for the engineering team were much higher. Their commitment to reliability ensured the app’s continued success, ease of use, and scalability for the moment, giving communities all over the country a much-needed boost.

Performing in the moment

The travel industry has had to completely rethink their approach. But Love Holidays has always had a strong vision to anchor their innovation: they focus squarely on performance and use it to prioritize decision making, knowing how critical it is for growth. And that didn’t change during this moment. In fact, they leaned into their innovation and decided to make a full migration to Fastly. That enabled them to save bandwidth, decrease outages, and increase conversions. With an unrelenting focus on performance — and the tools that enable it — they were able to thrive during a notoriously difficult moment for travel.

The road ahead

Innovation and big breakthroughs have always happened at times of incredible pressure, when a new solution or a combination of previously unrelated tools are required to meet those challenges. We deeply believe in our mission to help builders create a more trustworthy internet, and we’re also incredibly proud of our solutions and the care and intellect that goes into our products. As we look to 2021, we know the trends of dev-centricity and accelerated transformation, alongside security, scale, and performance will only continue to increase in importance. Those who prioritize these things will stay ahead of the competitive curve.

We believe that we are unique in delivering the specific set of interconnected tools that our customers have shown us are the exact right combination required to build the future of the internet. We’re honored to have played a part in these soaring customer achievements by providing them with the qualities any builder needs to become an innovator. Enjoy the new year, and we look forward to what we’ll do together in 2021 and beyond.


This blog post was based on a talk given at Altitude, our customer summit held in November 2020. Watch other talks on the future of Fastly and the internet from the virtual event here.

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