Will the real MySQL please stand up?

MySQL has a serious messaging problem on its hands, for a not-so-serious message.

Matt Asay Contributing Writer
Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.
Matt Asay
3 min read

Kaj tried to explain MySQL's "new" policy of offering closed extensions to its 100 percent open-source core (New? MySQL Monitor has been commercial-only since 2005 or so, as Marten Mickos recently reminded me), but Kaj's clarification clouded things more than it cleared them, such that wild throngs crowded the streets to celebrate their apparent success in browbeating MySQL into giving them all of its software for free, forever.

Put simply, Kaj indicated that one announced closed extension would now be open source, but said nothing about other potential closed extensions. People missed the point (which was not hard given the post's (correct) emphasis on all the open source that MySQL does and will do).

It wasn't merely those outside the company who were confused, however. MySQL co-founder, Monty, also missed the memo:

My hope is that the experiment when it comes to closed source extensions developed by Sun is now ended. As far as I know, there is no existing plans for any closed source extensions to the MySQL server.

Wrong (and right)...and on several counts. First, it wasn't Sun that introduced the idea of closed extensions to MySQL. MySQL was already working on these in its efforts to experiment toward a model that allows it to make huge amounts of software available under free and open-source licensing, while also earning a fair return on its efforts.

Marten explained in an email to me:

...[I]t makes sense to note that the absolutely overwhelming portion of our lines of code are GPL. That's why I compare our commercial add-ons to salt in delicious dish. You just need a tiny bit to make it good, and you don't want too much of it. The non-GPL code we have produced and are planning to produce is much less than the closed-source code we have opened, i.e. Cluster and Falcon.

Absolutely. The critical thing will be to make sure that the commercial extensions never inhibit adoption; that they don't foil its community. MySQL's heart is in the right place on this one - I'm convinced it will do this right.

Second, MySQL remains committed to continuing this experiment. I've heard this directly from Marten Mickos, Zack Urlocker, and Ian Murdock. They were very public about it on stage at the ComunityOne event. Let's stop pretending that MySQL is not doing this, and that it will be the end of open-source life as we know it.

Third, we're not talking about the MySQL database/server. Marten committed on stage at CommunityOne that the database would be free and open source forever. 100 percent. That's not in question.

The question is around proprietary and/or closed extensions at the periphery of the database: add-on modules that add functionality, performance, or something, but which don't detract from the core database product. Yes, MySQL will offer these.

So, in brief, MySQL will offer closed extensions to its 100 percent open-source database product. It will not add to global warming or other serious issues in the world today.

Take a deep breath. Then contribute some code, or cash, to MySQL. That's the best way to help influence the project, in my opinion.