MySQL was once the most popular open source database (it still is), but it’s declining under the leadership of Oracle. The founder of MySQL Michael Widenius “Monty” founded MariaDB, an open source database, which is gaining popularity lately. It’s not only become the default database of the leading open source operating systems, but is also replacing MySQL at WikiMedia and other major organizations and companies. Recently SkySQL merged with MariaDB’s parent company Monty Program Ab, increasing its developer force. We reached out to Monty to talk about the changing database landscape. Read on…

Swapnil: MySQL became the default database of a majority of projects and companies around the globe, what made MySQL so popular – what characteristics did it have? Was it it’s open source nature, technological superiority or marketing by Sun?
Monty: MySQL was widely popular long before MySQL was bought by Sun. (This was one of the main reasons why Sun wanted to buy MySQL).

The main reasons that made MySQL so popular were:

  • Free software/Open Source (freely available to everyone)
  • We were from the start very friendly and helpful towards all users
  • I personally wrote 30,000 emails just to help people get started during the first 5 years.
  • Dual licensing
  • Allowed us to make money so we could hire more people to the project.
  • Allowed us to attract investors (to get the more money needed for rapid growth)
  • We did from the start releases –  tested MySQL binaries for a lot of platforms.
  • When we started with MySQL, most free software code come only in source and was not tested on all platforms.
  • From the start we had the rule that anyone should get MySQL up and running in 15 minutes (including download time).
  • We were also lucky to be out in with the right product at the right time.
  • When we started, there was no competition for a free SQL database.

Swapnil: Two leading open source forces were started by Finnish born people – Torvalds and Widenius. Does Finland’s education system encourage such efforts?
Monty: In these two cases, the education system had very little to do with the products.

I think it’s more the nature of Finns that we are very stubborn and hate to give up, even if others tell us that what we do are of no practical use and that we can’t possibly compete with the ‘big players’.

When it comes to Linus Torvalds and I, we both had a talent to talk with other developers and get them excited about what we were doing. Maybe it helped that neither of us are native English speakers and that made it easier to build bridges with developers all over the world. (It was expected from the start that one didn’t have to talk perfect English to join the projects).

Swapnil: You were concerned about MySQL’s sale to Oracle (your concerns turned out to be true). The popularity of MySQL has been declining lately. What do you think is the reason of this decline? What is Oracle doing wrong here?
Monty: Yes, MySQL has declined lately but most users it has lost to others in the MySQL ecosystem, like MariaDB.

What Oracle is doing wrong:

And, probably worst of all, it’s impossible for the community to work with the MySQL developers at Oracle.

  • Oracle doesn’t accept patches
  • There is no public roadmap
  • There is no way to discuss with MySQL developers how to implement things or how the current code works.

Swapnil: How do you feel as a founder of the project? Is MySQL still as open as it was when you founded it?
Monty: No, it’s not open anymore. See above.

Swapnil: At the same time MariaDB is rising in popularity, first of all for regular users – what is the difference between MariaDB and MySQL.
Monty: The answer can be found here.


  • MariaDB has +30 more man years of development on top of MySQL
  • Many more features
  • Faster
  • More stable
  • Less security issues

The short answer is that there is no reason at all to use MySQL 5.5 instead of MariaDB 5.5. The same will be true for the next generation.

Swapnil: How is MariaDB changing the database landscape? MySQL still dominate the Web, are there any programs to engage Web Hosting providers to migrate to MariaDB?
Monty: A lot of the web host providers already support MariaDB (you have only to ask them and many of them will provide MariaDB to you).

We are actively talking to Web host providers to get them to publicly support MariaDB. This is however a long process.

Swapnil: MariaDB is drop-in replacement of MySQL, despite the technological similarities what is the main difference between these two projects from development and licence point?
Monty: MariaDB is developed by the community with an open roadmap. Anyone can easily participate in the development. MySQL is developed as a closed source project and only Oracle, and a few companies elected by Oracle, can participate. MariadB is GPL (as MySQL) but MariaDB has LGPL drivers for C and Java. We are also working on an LGPL ODBC driver. If you use these drivers than you, in most cases, don’t need to buy licenses for MySQL/MariaDB anymore.

Swapnil: How easy or difficult is it to migrate from MySQL to MariaDB?
Monty: Trivial. Just de-install MySQL and install MariaDB instead. All your all tools, connectors will work. You also don’t have to dump/restore data. The format and file names are identical.

Swapnil:Is it planned to have a migration tool/software for MySQL users ?
Monty: No need. See above.

Swapnil: We have seen quite some adoption of MariaDB by organizations like WikiMedia foundation or GNU/Linux based distros like openSUSE and Fedora, but are there any commercial deployment through Monty Program Ab? I mean what is the revenue status of your company?
Monty: Monty Program Ab did get money from a small set of companies to develop MariaDB. In addition Monty Program Ab got money for doing 3 level support to companies like SkySQL.

Swapnil: SkySQL has now merged with Monty Program AB how does it affect the entire developer base of MariaDB?
Monty: As the best MySQL/MariaDB developers, support people, trainers and sale people are in the same company, we are now much better suited to provide the best possible services for any MySQL or MariaDB user.

Swapnil: How do you ensure that MariaDB won’t meet the same fate of MySQL by being acquired by some company?
Monty: That is why we created the MariaDB foundation. The MariaDB Foundation is the driver of the community development and also the holder of the MariaDB server trademark. This ensures that there is never a need to do a new fork of MySQL in spite of who ever would by SkySQL. MariaDB will always be free and community developed!

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