MariaDB versus MySQL: What's the difference?

Alright, let's talk about MySQL and MariaDB, two big names when managing databases.

Futuristic illustration comparing MySQL and MariaDB, with stylized databases on a digital grid, highlighting their corporate and community-driven designs.

Both are super popular and used by many people and companies for various projects, big and small. They're kind of like cousins, sharing a lot of similarities but also having unique traits.

In fact, unless you are a power user, you probably won't tell the difference when you use either for most tasks.

Before we dive into the differences, it's good to know the origins:

How they started

So, MySQL has been around for a while. It was made by a company in Sweden, which got bought by Sun Microsystems, and then Oracle Corporation scooped up Sun. MySQL comes in two flavors:

  • A free version that anyone can use.
  • A paid version that packs some extra features and support.

MariaDB came into the picture because some folks started worrying about MySQL's future after Oracle took over.

The original creators of MySQL wanted to ensure there'd always be a free and open version, so they forked MySQL and started MariaDB.

MariaDB is all about staying true to being open-source and free for everyone.

So what's the difference?

As I alluded to in the intro, MySQL and MariaDB are similar when we dive into what they offer, at least if you are coming from MySQL.

They run on all the major operating systems and have features like making copies of data (replication) and grouping servers (clustering).

But they have greatly diverged since the original fork, and I don't think it's a fair comparison anymore.

MariaDB has much more to offer because it has thrown in some extra goodies like new ways to store data (even NoSQL), claims to have faster performance (which I haven't tested), and some cool new tools and improvements.

But a quick note about performance, it depends on what you're doing with them. MariaDB often says it's faster, especially for certain types of tasks, but honestly, both can be tweaked and tuned to run your applications smoothly.

On the licensing front, both use the GPL, which is all about keeping software free and open. But since Oracle has a commercial version of MySQL, some people worry they might tighten their grip on it in the future or already have to pay to get some of the free features of MariaDB (like thread pooling).

MariaDB doesn't have this issue since it's fully committed to staying open source, backed by its community and foundation, and continues to grow and improve quickly.

Ultimately, both MySQL and MariaDB are solid choices for database management.

I wouldn't be rushing to migrate a MySQL project, but if I was starting a project in 2024 or beyond, I'd be placing my bets on MariaDB to continue to outshine MySQL.

What do you think?

Avatar for Niall Maher

Written by Niall Maher

Founder of Codú - The web developer community! I've worked in nearly every corner of technology businesses; Lead Developer, Software Architect, Product Manager, CTO and now happily a Founder.


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