Webapps and scheduled task expiries

tl;dr: for free accounts, web apps and scheduled tasks will stop running after a while if you don’t log in. We’ll email you a warning before this happens. Here’s why:

Loads of people create free Python websites on PythonAnywhere and this is a really cool thing. Some of these websites are active ones where people are hosting their personal stuff, doing academic things, etc., and they want to keep them running. This is awesome! We want people to do that and we’re happy to host this stuff for free.

For other use cases, some people may setup a webapp to try out a new web framework. Their owners may not intend to keep them running forever. That’s fine too! We’re glad to help people learn.

The problem for us is that we can’t tell which is which.

Search engines such as Google and Baidu, and other web crawlers continuously index and hit all of the free websites, so they all look active, even the ones that nobody is using. We also didn’t have any mechanism to tell which scheduled tasks were still important to their owners.

We don’t want to reduce the service that we offer for free. We think it’s an important way to give back to the community (and of course lots of free users start paying us after a while – the record is a free user who started paying us after three years! – so we have an incentive there too ;-)

On the other hand, PythonAnywhere is also very focused on offering a long term, sustainable service. In order to be a long term solution for you, we need a way to avoid accumulating dead code that will just grow and grow with no way of reducing it.

So, we’ve added a way for people to say “I’m still interested in keeping this web app/task running”. Every three months (for web apps) or four weeks (for scheduled tasks) we’ll email you to check. If you want to keep it up and running, there’s a link in the email to click that will make sure it’s all good for another three months or four weeks as appropriate. If you don’t, you can just ignore the email.

If you miss the expiry email, all is not lost – we won’t delete anything. All your files, webapp setup, tasks and task logs will still be kept, but they just won’t be actively running. You just need to login and click a button to re-enable them, and they will be extended by 3 months/4 weeks again.

We hope this works out OK, and helps us avoid running stuff that nobody wants anymore, which adds unnecessary congestion to the servers and ultimately increases the costs we have to charge our paying customers. Hopefully, it is a good balance between the two goals of being long term sustainable and making sure that we can continue to host stuff that people actually want for free.

Reach out to us if you have any thoughts!

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