Heroku, Saleforce’s platform-as-a-service biz, said Thursday it will discontinue its free container and database offerings and purge inactive accounts due to continued abuse.
It is often said of customers of Internet technology companies, “If you don’t pay for the product, you are the product,” a sentiment that dates back at least to ad-supported television in the 1970s.
If you have a free service… someone is already trying to find a way to monetize it
From the perspective of the leading tech companies, there’s a different formulation: if you don’t pay for the product, you’re the liability – free online services and ever-changing identities via email services are proving to be a recipe for trouble.
Heroku spoke about how it is trying to deal with the misuse of his services at Black Hat USA in 2020. The abuse team’s presentation describes the challenge of dealing with miscreants who use Heroku for cryptocurrency mining and phishing, among other things: “If you have a free service, free trial, or other offering that can extract value, someone is already trying a way to make money with it.”
It is clearly no longer worth defending Heroku’s free level.
“Our product, engineering and security teams are going to extraordinary lengths to manage fraud and abuse of the free Heroku product plans,” said Bob Wise, Heroku general manager and EVP at Salesforce, in a blog post this week.
“To focus our resources on delivering mission-critical capabilities to customers, we will be phasing out our free Heroku Dynos plan, free Heroku Postgres plan, and free Heroku Data plan for Redis, as well as removing inactive accounts.”
Beginning October 26, Heroku will delete accounts that have been inactive for a year and all associated storage space. The following month, on November 28, Heroku’s free tier will disappear and free dynos – Heroku’s term for containers – and free data services (hobby developer Heroku Postgres and hobby developer Heroku Data for Redis) will be discontinued.
Users of these services can expect emails notifying them of the pending changes as the dates approach. After the transition, Heroku Dynos will start at $7/month, Heroku Data for Redis will start at $15/month, and Heroku Postgres will start at $9/month.
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In its FAQ about the end of its free plans, Heroku makes its focus on revenue a little more explicit. “The priority going forward is to support clients of all sizes who deploy projects, careers and businesses on Heroku,” the company said, citing clients such as PensionBee and Softgiving.
The end of the free ride is not entirely unexpected. Founded in 2007 and initially notable for its simple deployment model, Heroku has been unpopular with developers looking to host apps on a managed platform for years. Like a devops biz CEO put it in a tweet last year, “Heroku is like a fallen civilization of elves. Beautiful, immortal, loved by all who encountered it – but still a dead end.”
Free plans usually end up fapping or becoming worthless unless the provider has such a strong monopoly-backed revenue stream that it can afford to scorch the competitive landscape to prevent rivals from taking root. And even then, the giants who weaponized free offers like Google often reconsider after a while.
At the same time, those on the run from past free commitments can’t always escape. GitLab, an online git service, announced a shutdown of inactive free tier projects earlier this month, only to bounce back after an outcry. ®