Watch out, MySQL: MariaDB could replace you

Even as MySQL’s popularity has flattened and even declined, MariaDB has boomed

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MariaDB never should have happened. Monty Widenius, the founder of both MySQL and MariaDB, made a bundle selling MySQL to Oracle years ago, but he then launched MariaDB to try to return the heart of MySQL to a proprietary-free open source(only to later add in his own proprietary bits to MariaDB). It has made for great theater but, somehow, it has also made for a very popular database.

How popular? Of the 343 databases tracked by DB-Engines, MariaDB now ranks 14th overall, ahead of Hbase, Amazon DynamoDB, and most every other database you can think of. Even as MySQL’s popularity has flattened and even declined, MariaDB has boomed. With so many ways to get a MySQL fix these days, why is MariaDB thriving?

To get some sense for how impressive that current ranking is, it’s useful to see how far MariaDB has come in a short period of time. As of February 2017, it ranked No. 20. That was a nice bump from No. 23 in February 2016. In September 2013, it was No. 34. Back in 2009 when it launched, MariaDB was a rounding error. For those keeping score, popular databases like PostgreSQL and MongoDB have inched up the charts in that same timeframe. MariaDB’s movement, by contrast, has been a rocketship.

Granted, it started from a much smaller base, so its movement up the DB-Engines popularity chart is more pronounced. But it’s still impressive, no matter how many disclaimers you slap on it.

The question is what’s driving that continued growth in popularity?

Well, Oracle for one thing. Or, rather, the shadow of Oracle. Even though Oracle has continued to make significant investments in MySQL, most of the committers now come from an @oracle.com email address. The major Linux distributions like Red Hat Enterprise Linuxtook notice early on, and switched to shipping MariaDB instead of MySQL. Open source freedom may not matter to all, but it does matter to the Linux vendors, and so they’ve made it much easier to get MariaDB instead of MySQL.

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