Originally published in the article MySQL Forks: Which one is right for me?, published in the June edition of php[architect].

Oracle’s MySQL is the granddaddy of MySQL servers.  Originally created by Monty Widenius in 1994, it was named after his first daughter, My.  Monty co-founded MySQL AB in order to release MySQL as a free but proprietary software solution in 1995.  In 2000, the product was released under the GPL.  MySQL proved to be easy to set up, configure, and use, which made it perfect for the exponential growth of the web in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  The “LAMP Stack” (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) became the foundation of a large portion of the web during that time.

The LAMP stack was not without its detractors.  Some considered PHP to be an unsuitable language, and substitued Perl or Python as the “P” in “LAMP”.  MySQL was also denigrated as lacking the features and reliability of “enterprise” databases such as PostgreSQL.  Even Apache found critics, as single-process web servers such as lighttpd and nginx gained followers.  Despite that criticism, the LAMP community continued to grow and thrive.

Innobase’s InnoDB storage engine was licensed for use in MySQL in 2001.  InnoDB brought some of the “enterprise” features to MySQL that many wished for, including transactions, multi-version concurrency control (MVCC), and foreign keys.  Innobase was bought by Oracle in 2005, which caused some consternation in the MySQL community at the time.  InnoDB development continued, however, and in time most serious users of MySQL opted for the InnoDB storage engine.

In early 2008, Sun Microsystems purchased MySQL AB for $1 billion.  Shortly after that, the global economy dove into a recession, and Sun started looking for buyers.  In 2009, Sun announced that they had agreed to be purchased by Oracle, and the buyout was finalized in early 2010.

This deal had both good and bad consequences for the MySQL community.  For the first time ever, InnoDB development was directly integrated with MySQL development.  Oracle has so far continued, and even accelerated development of the MySQL platform.  There is still some concern felt by many in the community, however.  Among other things, Oracle’s perceived mishandling of the Hudson continuous integration server and the OpenOffice.org office suite caused many to question Oracle’s commitment to open source.  This environment, coupled with the company’s perceived internal conflict of interest relating to its own competing commercial database platform, has provided fertile ground for alternatives to Oracle’s official MySQL to grow.

Next week: The current state of Oracle MySQL

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