Muted response speaks volumes as AWS scraps low-code Honeycode

Muted response speaks volumes as AWS scraps low-code Honeycode

AWS is ending its low-code Honeycode service, with new sign-ups blocked immediately and applications for existing customers kept running only until February 29, 2024.

Honeycode was introduced in beta in June 2020 as “a fully managed service that allows customers to quickly build powerful mobile and web applications – with no programming required.”

Building an app with AWS Honeycode

In April 2022 the team announced “the next generation of Honeycode,” intended to reduce complexity further via a new builder user interface and support for images – though it remained a beta. Templates covered applications including expense reporting, an inventory system, and event planner, time off reporting, and feedback surveys.

However it was not all gain, as some features were lost. The team at the time explained that “when we launched the new experience, we did not do so with full feature parity to Honeycode’s classic experience, as we want to gather early feedback.”

The Honeycode application model is spreadsheet-like, perhaps based on the assumption that spreadsheets are familiar to the business power users targeted by this kind of service.

Judging by the community forum – which also formed the main documentation – the biggest problem for Honeycode was limited take-up. There were only a handful of new topics each month and then, just before the closure, the inevitable question: dead or alive?

The end of life announcement has drawn only six replies so far, though one states that “my company’s entire infrastructure was built around AWS Honeycode.” So some are disappointed.

What went wrong? It is possible that Honeycode tilted its focus too far towards usability, and not enough towards capability – especially in its early days, with little integration with other services and directories. Further, the focus of AWS has always been on IT specialists rather than the general users who might have more interest in a low-code tool.

A commentator on Hacker News, who said they were an “engineer on Honeycode in 2017,” said that “today, I’m pretty skeptical about no-code. It just feels like the citizen developer is a dead-end. I think Honeycode was in this uncanny valley where you can’t really use it for real applications. Honeycode didn’t have source control, custom React components, nor testing.”

AWS says that “we are incorporating lessons from the Amazon Honeycode beta into current services, and remain committed to supporting no/low code services including Amazon SageMaker Canvas, AWS Amplify Studio, and AWS AppFabric.”

Low-code development is by no means dead though. Platforms like Microsoft’s Power Apps are proving popular with business users, now with Copilot AI claiming to build entire applications via conversational prompts.

A spokesperson for Amazon confirmed the shutdown, telling DevClass: “The Amazon Honeycode beta will end on February 29, 2024, and is no longer accepting new customer sign-ups. We are helping customers migrate to the tool of their choice and will not charge them for Honeycode usage after July 31, 2023.

“Amazon’s Day 1 culture allows us to experiment and innovate quickly for our customers, in part because we set a high bar for our services and stay fiercely self-critical to identify any sign that a project won’t meet our customers’ expectations. We are grateful to our customers for the feedback they’ve shared during the beta.”