Heroku Free Rides are Over

The Ruby on Rails Tutorial taught me about Heroku, a service for hosting web applications. Your app is running on Amazon Web Services, but Heroku handles all the management and administration of those machines. We just have to focus on our code. It was recommended by the Ruby on Rails Tutorial because it made hosting Rails apps on live internet servers super easy, so we could focus on learning Ruby on Rails and not on AWS administration. And it didn’t cost us anything at the time, as we were able to run on Heroku’s lowest performance free tier.

But that free tier disappears on November 28th, 2022. This is disappointing but not a surprise after Heroku was acquired by Salesforce. Many startups have generous free trials to build up a customer base and prove demand for the product exists. With this proven demand, those startups are acquired by new owners who demand they get serious about making profits. This happened to Cloud 9 IDE, which I played with back when it was free, but that free tier disappeared after it was acquired Amazon. It happened to Ruby on Rails tutorial, which was free but its parent organization Learn Enough Society has since been acquired and everything is now behind a paywall. This, by the way, is one of the reasons I’ve stopped working on micro Sawppy. I had been building my open source Sawppy rover in Onshape because there was a free tier, but they’ve been making it harder and harder to find. After Onshape was acquired, I suspect it will only a matter of time before the free tier disappears entirely. I’m looking for another accessible CAD solution for future Sawppy, but that’s a topic for another day. [UPDATE: I’ve written up my Sawppy CAD wishlist.]

Today I’m sad at the fact Heroku free tier is going away. I had been studiously learning about HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and just finished a course for Node.js web apps with Express. I’ll definitely start with projects that are deployed only to my home network, but I had grandiose dreams of deploying internet-facing apps via Heroku. I might still do so, but I wouldn’t be able to do it for free. After Heroku announced that free tiers were disappearing, they offered a new tier more affordable than what they had otherwise offered but still not free. Based on the pricing estimator, it looks like a hosted web app equivalent to the previous free tier performance will cost at least $5/month. And if we want a database behind that app, it’ll be another $5/month. Not exactly an extortion, but a significant friction for hobbyists like myself. Maybe they’ll make further adjustments to their pricing structure in the future, I could only hope. In the meantime, I should return to my study.

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