Heroku General Manager and Salesforce EVP Bob Wise pulbished and announcement post today titled - Heroku’s Next Chapter. At first, it looked like this was going to be announcement of big changes in Heroku's vision, mission, and plans for the future. It turned out the entire post is about discontinuing Heroku free plans and deleting inactive accounts. Wise does talk about other things like public roadmap, focus on mission critical, student and nonprofit program, and open source support as well. But these seem to be included to add a positive tone to the changes that may be viewed as negative for Heroku users.
Heroku is a cloud platform that makes deploying and running apps fast and easy. I started using heroku after I became familiar with Streamlit, a python web framework that makes creating data driven web apps by only coding in python and without much knowledge and skills in web development. Combining Streamlit and Heroku, one can build fully functioning and function specific apps in no time. When first started using Streamlit, they also launched Streamlit Sharing platform that would make deploying apps easy as well. Since I already was able to use Heroku, I never had a need to use Streamlit Sharing platform. I believe the sharing platform is still free.
Bob Wise became a Heroku General Manager not too long ago, maybe 5-6 months ago. When leadership changes, the vision and operations may change too. This seems like one of Wise's changes to bring improvements to Heroku. Usually changes are good and help companies reinvent themselves. Sometimes changes may also be driven with only profits in mind, rather than long term vision. Which one applies in this case, only time will tell. Maybe stopping developers from using resources for free and eliminating inactive accounts will create more resources for paying customers, and maybe this can lead to more positive changes Heroku itself and its users.
Heroku is great. I like how easy it is to use. I like how it can benefit many students of coding and those who are just learning how to build apps. I have several apps running on Heroku, one on a paid plan and others on free. The reason I use free plans is because those apps are only used once in a while and by few people and don't use much or resources. But that doesn't make them less useful. The do perform the functions they were created for. I will have to make decisions in next few weeks to either upgrade these apps to paid plans or find other solutions. Many other Heroku users will have to make similar decisions.
According to the announcement, Heroku will start deleting inactive accounts starting October 26, 2022. What I am not sure is what exactly inactive account means. They do say, if an account was inactive for more than a year it will be considered inactive. However, is it decided based on the activity in the account by the developer or the activity and usage of the apps running on those accounts? That is not clear. But to be sure it probably would be wise to take some actions in advance, and not be surprised by the deletion of the accounts. The end of free Heroku plans will come on November 28, 2022. No more free plans after this date and they will be shutting down free dynos and data services. If you have inactive accounts or apps using free plans on Heroku and you care about them, you may want to start preparing now and deciding what to do next.
The strange part the post is titled to represent the future plans and roadmap for Heroku. But not much is shared regarding that. It seems like everything else the post tries to cover is just there as a distraction and nothing of real substance. I would be more interested to see what new this new chapter in Heroku contains, vision, mission, products. Perhaps we will see more in the future. Not supporting free accounts any more can be a move for Heroku if they have some good plans in place that won't cause them losing users. Heroku is good platform, and I would assume many who have used wouldn't mind paying for the services. Especially, when they still offer tiered plans that start from $7 a month. That is not too bad. A friend of mind once told me that one can run a decent app on Heroku for $25 a month. This is still not expensive either. Maybe discontinuing free accounts will cause these accounts to subscribe to paid plans, maybe not. Some will.
At the same time, free dynos has been helping beginners and students to try building apps and learn. It does seem like Heroku is still committed to student and nonprofit programs. Not sure how they work, but good to know they still care about students as well. Also, without free accounts, some may hesitate to try the platform and never get to know Heroku. I think a better approach could have been changing free accounts to free trials for some limited time period. This way people can try the platform and once they figure out the benefits upgrade to paid tier. It does look like they will have some sort of trial version, but for that one would need to contact them. That is just another unnecessary step to take.
In addition to my personal projects, I have two Hive related Apps on Heroku: Hive Librarian and Hive-Search. They used to be on paid dynos. But when I realized they weren't being used much, I moved them back to free tier. I do use them myself from time to time. But for a personal use we don't necessarily need Heroku. We can run apps locally for completely free. Even when on free tier, if an app is used a lot it normally would run out of resources and Heroku would send a notification that the app would stop working once certain limited has been crossed. I haven't received any notifications regarding Hive Librarian and Hive Search in several months. For this reason, I don't see a need to upgrade them to paid dynos. I will probably move them elsewhere, when I figure out what to do with my other projects.
Do you use Heroku? What do you think about these changes? Let me know in the comments.