Why Did Heroku Fail?

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2022-05-13 21:30:08

Fifteen years later, developers are still trying to recreate the developer experience of Heroku. Yet, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Why did Heroku fail? Was it just incompetent management? Was the idea too early? If developers demand Heroku, why haven't they (or a competitor) figured out how to make it viable?

The company was started in 2007, a year after AWS launched EC2 (Heroku built on EC2). It was also perfect timing to launch a hosted Ruby on Rails service (see Getting to Market with Rails for a list of startups that launched on rails).

Yet, Engine Yard was spun up around the same time and offered a similar PaaS. They continue to exist as a private company but spun off part of its team to Microsoft in 2017.

If Heroku and Engine Yard were too early, we would have seen more widespread adoption of next-generation PaaS (e.g., fly.io, Render). Containers (introduced in 2013) also changed DevOps and software deployment landscape. Yet, container-native PaaS (e.g., OpenShift) also failed.

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