MySQL creator launches campaign to 'save' database

Widenius urges action as Oracle-Sun hearings near a climax

The creator of MySQL has launched a Web-based campaign to "save" the open-source database from the "clutches" of Oracle, which is attempting to purchase its current owner, Sun Microsystems.

Oracle announced plans to buy Sun in April for US$7.4 billion, but the deal has been held up while European authorities conduct an antitrust review. One key concern of regulators, as well as open-source advocates, is the future of MySQL under Oracle, which holds a healthy share of the database market with its own proprietary product.

But if users speak up now, European authorities could stop the merger or force Oracle to provide certain concessions and guarantees around MySQL, Michael "Monty" Widenius said in a blog post.

He claimed that Oracle has contacted "hundreds of their big customers," asking them to lobby the European Union to support the deal. Oracle has told customers it would invest more money in MySQL's development and that even if it abandoned the database, offshoots of the codebase would "take care of things," according to Widenius.

Widenius himself is behind one such project, MariaDB.

Still, such efforts aren't enough, according to Widenius.

"Just putting money into development is not proof that anything useful will ever be delivered or that MySQL will continue to be a competitive force in the market as it's now," he said. And an offshoot "is not enough to keep MySQL alive for all future, if Oracle, as the copyright holder of MySQL, would at any point decide that they should kill MySQL or make parts of MySQL closed source," he added.

Ten years ago MySQL was mostly used for Web applications but has since become "very functional, scalable and credible," and used for a variety of purposes, he added.

"This not only scares but actually hurts Oracle every day," he said. "Of course Oracle has a lot more features, but MySQL can already do a lot of things for which Oracle is often used and helps people save a lot of money. So I just don't buy it that Oracle will be a good home for MySQL."

Widenius is asking like-minded users to publicize their concerns by sending letters to the E.U., blog on the issues and speak to executives at their companies.

Users had mixed initial reactions to Widenius' plea.

"Let's stand up today to face the evil!" said a poster identified as "Ryan Chan" on the MySQL mailing list.

But others took a laissez-faire attitude to the merger.

"You sold MySQL (and that's OK)," said one person who commented in response to Widenius' blog post. "Oracle is free to do whatever they want to do with it, I mean they bought it so they own it, period."

An Oracle spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Widenius' 11th-hour campaign may be in vain, as the E.U. appears set to approve the merger.

On Monday, Oracle issued a statement containing 10 commitments to MySQL's users and developers. The pledges, which would be valid for five years following the close of the merger, are "an important new element to be taken into account in the ongoing proceedings," the E.U. said in a statement. The E.U. also reiterated Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes' recent remark that she is optimistic the matter can have a satisfactory resolution.

(Joab Jackson in New York contributed to this report.)

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