Why bother with MySQL...

09 October 2008   2 comments   Linux


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...over PostgreSQL? I've just read through this document:MySQL vs PostgreSQL and it's obvious paragraph after paragraph that PostgreSQL is the better database. Performance, features and community are all in PostgreSQL's favor. There is almost nothing in MySQL's favor apart from obscure things like faster count(*) (without conditionals) and built in replication support. In the last two weeks I've also had the great fortune of playing with full textindexing in both MySQL and PostgreSQL and again, MySQL sucks ass and PostgreSQL (8.3) is really impressive and fast. (I've used both databases quite extensively over the past 8 years as a web developer)

I once heard that Google uses MySQL for its user database with a custom built transaction machine. And I read that Google engineers had donated some great code to the MySQL project. But why do they bother? What do they know that other engineers don't? And why is MySQL so popular with cheap stack-em-high LAMP hosting sites?

I do understand that PostgreSQL came off a bad start 5 years ago(ish) when it didn't support Windows which meant that newbies had to use MySQL and that stigma is still lingering but that was a very long time ago.

I guess it takes a lot of convincing to switch from one technology to another once you've set your mind on something. That's why we're human. A proof of this is shown if you scroll down to the bottom of this page there's a little simple survey and despite being on a long article with objective convincing arguments that PostgreSQL is better MySQL is doing quite well. Why?


God help me, I put aside a whole afternoon to fugire this out.
In general, it is a well-known phenomenon in markets ðat good enough easily trumps what is best, if best requires more effort, planning, knowledge or any other number of factors. MySQL, just like Microsoft products, are a pain to use but a breeze to start using, so people usually put up wiþ a lot of pain over a lifetime just for fear of reviving some of it by restarting on a better foot. Ðe network effect takes care of ðe rest.

About Google, it seems have very different requirements ðan common users. For one, ðey really do not care about being good free software players; ðey often do not release source code, and are known to have used proprietary software out of expediency wiþout caring about helping develop free software alternatives.

Put ðese two factors togeðer, and we get a picture: Google probably started using MySQL just because it made it relatively easy to plug Big Table or Map Reduce under it, and never cared about developing ðe same interface for PostgreSQL, even if PostgreSQL would benefit ðe world much more in ðe long term, just because wiþ ðeir MySQL familiarity it would have taken longer to do ðe right þing to reach ðe market earlier ðan prospective rivals.

Google is a company builder, it is not a community builder.

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