Heroku may be dropping the hammer on hobbyist developers, at least according to hints we’re seeing that it may soon limit its free services. The app hosting company has apparently floated a new pricing scheme that’s only visible to participants in a private beta of its service.
According to those who’ve seen it, the most notable change in the new plan is an apparent restriction on Heroku’s free offering. At the moment, this tier allows users the use of 1 dyno—Heroku’s unit of processing power—up to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Under the proposed new plan, that level of service will force users into a new Heroku Hobby tier that will cost developers $7 a month.
Heroku, which hosts apps for customers as large as Macy’s and Toyota alongside trial efforts by students and part-time developers, declined to comment on its private beta. Tellingly, though, it also didn’t deny the reported pricing scheme.
Developer Eric Jiang, who reported seeing the new pricing tiers firsthand, described what he called the “verbatim text” of Heroku’s announcement in the private beta:
Free – Experiment in your own dev or demo app with a web and a worker dyno for free. Sleeps after 1 hr of inactivity. Active up to 12 hours a day. No custom domains. 512 MB RAM.
Hobby – Run a small app 24×7 with the Heroku developer experience for $7/dyno/mo. Custom domains. Run a maximum of one dyno per Procfile entry. 512 MB RAM.
Standard 1X, 2X: Build production apps of any size or complexity. Run multiple dynos per Procfile entry to scale out. App metrics, faster builds and preboot. All Hobby features. 512MB or 1GB RAM. $25 or $50/dyno/mo.
Performance – Isolated dynos for your large-scale, high-performance apps. All Standard features. Compose your app with performance and standard dynos. 6GB RAM. $500/dyno/mo.
Since only private beta users are able to see the potential prices, I wasn’t able to confirm them.
Those Who Pay, Pay Less; Those Who Don’t, Pay More
Developers are busily debating the merits of the possible pricing change. Many paying Heroku customers are greeting the news enthusiastically, as the reported changes actually result in lower prices for higher service tiers.
Jeremy Green of Octolabs wrote a blog post graphing how much money developers could save in the paid tiers. “If you already pay Heroku just about anything for hosting your app(s) this new pricing is nothing but Good News,” he wrote.
The changes won’t affect the most casual users much. If you are using Heroku to host very small apps that don’t run continuously—such as the randomizer Twitter bot I created and described here at ReadWrite—you’re still in the clear.
But hobbyist developers who don’t use Heroku to make money, especially students, are less excited. “So, as a fellow hobbyist with 12 free dynos running on Heroku with custom domains, I clearly don’t want to pay $84 a month for apps that aren’t meant to generate revenue,” one commenter wrote on Hacker News before asking where he should move his projects.
Heroku rose to prominence in the world of app hosting thanks in part to its freemium model, in which developers could launch apps for free on a small scale, and then upgrade to paid support if and when those apps become popular. But as the service has grown, it has started catering to larger business customers.
The purported new pricing structure appears designed to court big paying customers while shutting out what some call “freeloader” developers who game Heroku’s free services in order to run their apps continuously on Heroku’s servers. (Heroku normally idles apps after an hour of disuse.) That practice itself has long been a subject of debate; some, and perhaps many, such developers go on to become paying customers.
Those days may be coming to an end.