It seems we're in good company, as one of MySQL's founders, Monty Widenius, the man who spent the past 27 years creating and working on MySQL, is using his personal blog to incite a mass letter-writing campaign to the European Commission in order to ensure the open-source future of the popular database. We're not the only ones who questioned whether MySQL would "succumb to corporate lameness" after a takeover by a major closed-source competitor. In fact, Widenius speculates that Oracle could close or even kill all or parts of MySQL.
Although the U.S. Department of Justice approved Oracle's acquisition of Sun Microsystems earlier this fall, the EC chose to open an investigation into the matter. The DOJ saw no problem with Oracle's acquiring MySQL and focused instead on Java licensing issues.
"The easiest way to kill MySQL would be to not sell licenses any more or make their prices "really high". Another scenario is that the development resources are drastically reduced in some important areas. Then people would stop believing in the future of MySQL, which slowly will kill the product... It's safe to assume that both Sun and Oracle understand this."
Now, Widenius says MySQL -- hardly an underdog in the space -- has grown and stabilized to the point that it "hurts Oracle every day... Oracle [has] to lower prices all the time to compete with MySQL when companies start new projects. Some companies even migrate existing projects from Oracle to MySQL to save money."
Although Oracle has made several statements about the future of MySQL, here's what Widenius says the company has not guaranteed:
- that all of MySQL and its parts, modules and tools will remain under an open source license
- that MySQL license and support prices will remain the same
- that new versions and submitted patches will be released consistently and in a timely manner
- that dual licensing will continue and that affordable commercial licenses will be available
- that MySQL will be developed as an open source project
- that Oracle will work with the existing MySQL user community
- that discrimination will not occur when MySQL patches compete with Oracle products
- that MySQL will continue to be developed in ways that make it even more competitive with Oracle's main offering
In other words, by omitting certain language, Oracle has left itself more than enough ammunition to kill MySQL, if not execution-style then certainly over a long, slow, painful process of throttling innovation and freedom (as in beer and as in speech). Widenius points to Oracle's handling of the InnoDB acquisition in 2005 as a possible sign of things to come. "In the end," he writes, "Sun had to fork InnoDB, just to be able to improve performance."
So, without a list of users, Widenius is issuing a call to the entire open source community to help save MySQL from Oracle by emailing the EC and stating that either Oracle is not a fit steward for MySQL or that Oracle must make certain guarantees to ensure its open-source competitor's success. EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes is a known supporter of open-source technology; if user emails reach her before January 19 and make a significant impression, her office could shut the deal down.
As we've reported in the past, MySQL usage is expected to drop if the acquisition is complete. It seems that Oracle is putting a bad taste in the mouth of more than a few open-source geeks.
What's your opinion? Do you think Oracle should be allowed to take MySQL and do with it as they please? Do you think Oracle should have to make certain guarantees to ensure the longevity and success of MySQL? Or do you think MySQL should simply go to a good home, a.k.a. a nonprofit foundation, and remain a standalone competitor to Oracle's offering?
Vote below, and let us know your full thoughts in the comments.