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[RFC] Changes to the Hobby Plans (aka “One Chocolate Per Person”)

TL:DR If you’re a rational actor building cool stuff on the platform, this is great news for you! You should be getting higher quality service, more access, etc! If you’re someone attempting to abuse Railway by having multiple accounts/deploy things against ToS/etc, well, this is probably not great news for you.

We started Railway because we wanted to make it crazy easy to build and deploy applications. We think every person should have access to a magical computer in the sky, one that’s simple and easy to move the logic from your brain to the logic in a computer.

Over the past year, we’ve gone from 0 → 50k+ users. Tens of thousands of users, shipping monthly, building some really awesome things. Heck, with the Heroku stuff, on JUST this past Wednesday, we had 1000 new signups. There’s a lot of you, many more coming, and we’re hyped to help you ship some amazing stuff!

We’ve always wanted to offer a free tier. That much hasn’t changed. When there’s free stuff, however, it attracts people who like free stuff. We started by putting out a candy bowl, and then people started taking multiple chocolate bars (in the form of having multiple accounts). We then moved to monitoring the chocolate bowl with a camera. Sadly, Railway isn’t a house on a quiet neighborhood block, it’s more like a busy, 8 lane highway. As more and more people came through, this too failed.

Time and time again, we’d implement a solution to validate people on the free tier, only for them to immediately get around it. As a small team (7), any time we spend here takes away from making the platform itself better.

For Railway to continue to thrive, we’ll be implementing some changes to the Free and Developer plans over the next month or so.

Once again: our goal here is to give more benefit to good actors. If you’re an upstanding member of the community, you should only see benefit from these changes, in terms of increased stability, feature unlocks, and many more things

From Gaming, the terms “Buffing” and “Nerfing” are used to “Balance” the gameplay. Games like League of Legends, Apex Legends, etc all have teams dedicated to making sure the game is fun, fair, and there aren’t any exploits.

All this to say, we’re going to be making the free tier worse (”nerfing”) so that we can make the developer tier better and more accessible (”buffing”).

The free plan will trend more toward a “Taste of the platform”. The goal being that people can come to Railway, start playing with it, then move to the developer tier. Users will be able to deploy a few resources to test around on the platform. They’ll be able to use Railway as a CI/CD + “Show your friends” tool, as well as a replacement for Docker Desktop. We still want anybody to be able to come to Railway and get access to Postgres/Redis/Starters without having to learn complicated tooling like Docker/Kube/etc.

The goal of these changes is to allow people to use an equivalent featureset while curbing abuse and pushing credits towards good actors

  • Public Repos Only: Private repos will not be available to deploy on the Free Tier
    • Reasoning: The vast majority of the abuse comes from private repos who try to mask their shady activity
    • Alternative: Public repos are still a-okay!
  • Stronger Fraud Scanning: We’ll be scanning more aggressively on dependencies in this tier
    • Reasoning: Abuse has gotten more rampant. We want to clamp down more heavily, but we know this affects “good” actors on the free tier
    • Alternative: You’ll still be able to deploy any valid repos
  • App Sleeping: Much like other platforms, we’ll likely introduce the notion of an execution time limit
    • Reasoning: Infinite execution for infinite signups is the massive problem right now
    • Alternative: You’ll still be able to build and deploy applications on the platform
  • Custom Domains: will not be available to deploy on the trial tier
    • Reasoning: We need to maintain and refresh certs for the platform. Let’s Encrypt has limits here.
    • Alternative: You’ll always be able to attach a <MY_URL>.up.railway.app url to your project
  • Logging Limits:
    • Reasoning: We’ve had a few outages based on people spamming MASSIVE amounts of log lines
    • Alternative: You’ll still be able to see your logs, they’ll probably just be capped on a rolling basis
  • Rate Limits:
    • Reasoning: As many of you know, we have had issues on the platform with the Discord API. These future changes are aimed to reduce the burden of good actors on the platform.
    • Alternative: You can still make requests, just, less of them

We want to make it so that young hackers, ones who may not have credit cards, will also be able to ship on the platform. These are the users we cherish heavily; we all grew up fiddling with code platforms, showing cool things to our friends during lunch break, and going through those awesome late nights shopping cycles.

  • GitHub Student Access: Students who do not have a credit card should have access to the platform
  • Deposit Funds to Upgrade: If you want to upgrade but don’t have a credit card, we’re aiming to accept prepaid deposits
  • Contribution Credits: While we don’t know what it’ll look like, we DO want to reward all of you wonderful people who go above and beyond to create a PR, answer questions, and helped out around our growing community

These are just a few of the things we’ve considered moving forward. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the above, including suggestions you may have that we didn’t cover.

Thanks in advance,

Jake + The Railway Team