Heroku announced they are ending their free tier of services. This is a huge, immeasurable loss. When I was first started learning to program I relied on Heroku and its free services to explore this career. Without it I may have never gotten the confidence to apply to my first software developer job. And now many folks are losing that option for the start of their career.
Sure, this may sound a bit hyperbolic, but I do believe that there was a lot of power in the Heroku free-tier bundle. (Yes, I understand that the free tier of today is not as robust as it was when I started some 10 years ago. But it’s still something…)
I have been looking around for an alternative that would give people the same sense Heroku gave me. But I have not found one of yet. There was an announcement on Product Hunt for an open-source and self-hosted Heroku alternative. This is promising, but also not 100% free to start with. But this does not solve for the loss of Heroku.
Check out Coolify if you are interested.
There’s Vercel and Netlify too. Ecosystems that get you close to the power we are losing in Heroku, but not exactly. Starting off with Vercel and Netlify will most likely be free, but the real power of Heroku lied in their free add-ons.
Heroku’s add-ons are what allowed me to learn deeply. Running a Django application with a real database taught me a lot. It taught me about data consistency, migrations, user authentication, package management. These are skills that are important to have a grasp on.
And I know the answer is to spin up a $5 droplet on Digital Ocean. But that five dollars might be unattainable for folks. It is another barrier to entry into this wonderful career. And that is why I morn the loss of Heroku’s free tier.
I am sorry I do not have good solutions for replacing Heroku’s free tier of services. I am here morning a loss of a mechanism that allowed me to firmly plant my flag in software engineering. If any of you do have a solution, please reach out to me on Twitter and I’ll update this post!