Travis CI complains of 'significant abuse' of its free deal, creates new pricing that has developers riled

Open-source coders to get 'upgraded' to a trial plan that's not great


Travis CI, whose product is a continuous integration tool which can automatically test and deploy applications when new code is merged, has introduced new pricing plans in an effort to strike a better balance between free and paid-for subscriptions.

A banner on travis-ci.org, which describes itself as “the home of open source testing,” states that “testing your open source projects will always be free.” The idea at one time was that open source and commercial or private projects would be kept separate via .org and .com web sites, but recently the company informed users that travis-ci.org “will be officially closed down completely on December 31st, 2020” – now just two months away.

At the time, the Travis CI team said, “open-source projects will be free as they always have,” but that migrating repositories from travis-ci.org to travis-ci.com is required.

Now the mood music is changing, with a post introducing a new pricing model. There are several changes. One is that macOS builds will be charged extra.

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“macOS builds need special care and attention,” said the Travis CI team, though we think that the price premium Apple commands for its hardware is likely to be a factor too. What this means is that macOS users “will need to purchase add ons on top of (in addition to) their paid plans,” with 500 minutes of build time costing $15.00. Another change is that a new premium plan offers more than 10 concurrent builds, the previous limit.

Most significant though is the change for those building on public repositories with no paid subscription. “We will upgrade you to our trial (free) plan with a 10K credit allotment (which allows around 1,000 minutes in a Linux environment,” the company said. “When your credit allotment runs out - we’d love for you to consider which of our plans will meet your needs.”

There is still provision for additional free credits for open source developers, but this will be on a case by case basis. “Should you want to apply for these credits please open a request with Travis CI support stating that you’d like to be considered for the OSS allotment,” said the post.

The problem, the company said, is that while it wants to support the open source community, “recently we have encountered significant abuse of the intention of this offering. Abusers have been tying up our build queues and causing performance reductions for everyone.”

It is not clear what kind of “abuse” this refers to, other than that free users were using more resources than the company wanted to give away. The use of open source has broadened since 2011, when Travis CI was founded.

The largest and most profitable corporations in the world now maintain open source projects, which perhaps suggests that the mere fact of a repository being public does not always imply that its owners need or deserve free CI tools. Other users are less than impressed.

Travis CI was acquired by Idera in January 2019 and the new owners have no doubt also had an influence.

There are other options for developers, including GitHub which offers 2,000 free minutes of its Actions service per month for private repositories, and unlimited free minutes for public repositories. GitLab offers 400 CI/CD minutes free for any team, and also offers unlimited free access for “qualifying open source projects.”

Docker is another company which is trying to limit free usage, and perhaps Travis CI’s move is another example of business reality requiring a rethink of overly generous free offers. ®


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