MariaDB vs. MySQL: Key Differences & Full Comparison

MariaDB vs. MySQL

MariaDB vs. MySQL: Key Differences & Full Comparison

Key Points

  • MariaDB and MySQL are two popular database management systems.
  • MariaDB is a fork of MySQL, created to ensure an open-source, free-to-use database system.
  • MariaDB offers a wider range of storage engines compared to MySQL, allowing developers to choose the best fit for their specific needs.
  • While MySQL is known for its reliability and scalability, MariaDB tends to outperform MySQL in benchmarks, especially in tasks that benefit from its specialized optimizations.
  • Both MariaDB and MySQL have robust security features, but MariaDB offers more comprehensive encryption options and advanced backup features.

In software development, database solutions are everywhere, and choosing the right product can be pivotal. When comparing database management system designs, a common comparison that is made is pitting MariaDB vs. MySQL head-to-head. Both of these systems are quite similar, namely due to the developers of MySQL also creating MariaDB later on.

So, which database solution is better? This article provides a comprehensive comparison of the two database solutions. Below, we go into detail about the advantages and features of each to help you choose the best solution for you.

MariaDB vs. MySQL: Side-by-Side Comparison

LicensingStrictly uses the GPL v2 license to remain open-sourceUses dual-licensing approach to appeal to commercial developers
Storage EnginesHas a diverse range of options, including Aria, TokuDB, and SpiderDefaults to InnoDB
Performance & SpeedShowcases a slight edge in speed in benchmarksMaintains respectable performance metrics across all integrations
Security FeaturesPrioritizes advanced security featuresProvides robust security measures but is less advanced than MariaDB
Backup FeaturesOffers enhanced backup options for data safetyIncludes default and standardized backup features
Fork OriginForked from MySQLOriginal database
RecommendationIdeal for those seeking a purely open-source solution with multiple storage engine optionsPerfect for those familiar with its ecosystem and desiring a well-tested solution

MariaDB vs. MySQL: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to technology, few things are as vital as databases. A database is like the nerve center of almost every digital system, from the website you frequent to the banking app on your phone. It stores, organizes, and retrieves data, making all our digital experiences smooth and effective.

When thinking about databases, especially relational databases, two prominent names emerge: MariaDB and MySQL. Both have carved significant niches in the tech world, each boasting its own strengths, features, and ardent supporters. But how did they come to be?


MariaDB vs. MySQL
Databases help power countless websites, applications, and digital products.


The 1990s were a transformative time for the web. Amidst this digital revolution in 1995, MySQL emerged as a solution for web applications needing an efficient and reliable database system. Created by the Swedish duo David Axmark and Michael Widenius, MySQL’s initial draw was its simplicity, speed, and free-to-use license. Its footprint expanded rapidly, with businesses and developers adopting it globally.

By the mid-2000s, MySQL had become synonymous with web database architecture. Oracle’s acquisition in 2010 marked a significant chapter in its history and the creation of MariaDB, as introduced above. While many in the community were cautious about the implications, MySQL under Oracle continued its growth, further solidifying its status as a premier choice for web databases.


In 2009, the digital community saw MariaDB’s birth, but its roots go back a bit further. The original team behind MySQL, led by Michael “Monty” Widenius, had developed a system loved for its speed, robustness, and reliability. However, as introduced above, concerns arose when Oracle Corporation acquired MySQL.

There were fears about what this could mean for MySQL’s open-source nature and its future development. As a proactive response, Monty created MariaDB, a fork of MySQL, ensuring that the community would always have an open-source, free-to-use database system. Since then, MariaDB has seen significant growth, introducing features and improvements not present in MySQL and maintaining its commitment to open-source values.

Licensing Model


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At the heart of MySQL’s approach is a dual licensing model. This bifurcated strategy has a straightforward rationale. For those who wish to keep their applications open-source, MySQL offers its Community Edition under the GPL (GNU General Public License). This edition grants users the freedom to modify, distribute, and use the software as they deem fit, provided they adhere to the GPL’s provisions.

However, there’s the other side of the coin. Businesses that want to develop proprietary applications without the obligations of the GPL can opt for MySQL’s commercial license. This commercial version comes at a cost but offers certain advantages.

Besides freeing developers from the GPL’s stipulations, it provides enterprise-focused features and dedicated support. While this model endows users with flexibility, it’s not without its critics. There are concerns among some in the developer community about potential restrictions or unforeseen complications when transitioning from open-source to commercial versions.


MariaDB’s stance on licensing is uncompromising and clear-cut. Founded on the ideals of ensuring unrestricted access and fostering community contributions, MariaDB operates strictly under the GPL v2 license. What this means for developers is straightforward – complete freedom to modify, use, and distribute the software, all while ensuring it remains open-source.

This unwavering commitment to a single, open-source licensing model makes MariaDB a darling among open-source purists. They value the transparency and predictability it brings, devoid of the potential ambiguities of a dual licensing framework. This is one of the most significant differences between how MySQL operates and how the creators of MariaDB have chosen their database solution to operate.

Storage Engines


A database’s storage engine plays a pivotal role in determining how data is stored, retrieved, and manipulated. It’s akin to the heart of a database, with different engines optimized for various functions – be it transactional capabilities, speed, or memory efficiency. Over the years, MySQL has leaned predominantly on the InnoDB storage engine.

Originally developed as an independent product, InnoDB became so intrinsically linked with MySQL that Oracle, after acquiring both products, made it the default storage engine for MySQL. There’s a reason for InnoDB’s popularity. It offers ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability) compliance, ensuring reliable data integrity. Furthermore, its support for foreign keys, row-level locking, and crash recovery mechanisms makes it a robust choice for a wide range of applications.

However, while InnoDB is versatile and dependable, its dominance within MySQL means that users looking for specialized solutions might find it limiting. The engine is geared towards general-purpose workloads, and while it’s customizable to a degree, it doesn’t cater to some niche requirements that certain applications might demand.


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If MySQL can be likened to a trusted workhorse with its reliance on InnoDB, MariaDB is more of a Swiss Army knife, brimming with a multitude of tools. MariaDB developers, understanding the diverse needs of modern applications, have incorporated a rich variety of storage engines, each designed to excel in specific scenarios.

There are several great examples. First, developed as a crash-safe replacement for MyISAM (an earlier MySQL engine), Aria is general-purpose but boasts better caching mechanisms and durability. There is also TokuDB. Known for its fractal tree indexing, TokuDB shines when dealing with large datasets. It compresses data efficiently, leading to better storage use and improved insertion speeds.

For those dealing with big data, Spider is a boon. It’s a storage engine that integrates seamlessly with partitioning, allowing data sharding across multiple physical locations – ideal for distributing large datasets. MariaDB’s flexibility in offering a multitude of engines allows developers to choose the best fit for their specific needs, be it rapid data retrieval, massive data storage, or advanced data partitioning.

Performance Metrics


It would be a disservice to discuss database performance without acknowledging the consistent and reliable performance of MySQL. Being in the field for such a long time, MySQL has become the backbone for a myriad of applications worldwide. For example, while we’ve noted InnoDB’s general-purpose design, continuous improvements and optimizations to this engine ensure that MySQL delivers consistent performance.

This is also true of MySQL’s memory efficiency and scalability. MySQL has been lauded for its efficient use of memory, ensuring that operations remain swift even under load. Plus, MySQL can handle massive amounts of data and traffic.

Its ability to scale and maintain performance is a testament to its robust architecture. While some benchmarks might show MariaDB with a slight edge, MySQL continues to hold its own, delivering dependable performance that has been trusted by developers for years.


MariaDB vs. MySQL
Above is an example of SQL code to query data from a database.


MariaDB, from its inception, has had performance optimization at its core. The developers behind it took MySQL’s robust foundation and enhanced it with a series of optimizations, improvements, and innovative features. As previously highlighted, MariaDB’s array of storage engines, such as Aria and TokuDB, are designed for specific scenarios, which can lead to improved performance in those tailored use cases.

That is not all, though. MariaDB has also worked on refining subquery performance, often leading to faster query responses. Not to mention, MariaDB’s parallel replication feature allows it to replicate events from the master simultaneously, reducing lag and potentially offering better performance in replication and querying scenarios. In numerous benchmarks, MariaDB tends to outperform MySQL by a narrow margin, especially in specific tasks that benefit from its specialized optimizations.

Security and Backup


The security behind existing databases is absolutely paramount. Data breaches can lead to financial losses, tarnished reputations, and legal consequences. Additionally, ensuring that data remains intact and recoverable through efficient backup mechanisms is crucial for maintaining business continuity.

MySQL, with its longstanding history, has built a reputation for being secure and reliable. Over the years, its developers have introduced various features and improvements to fortify its defenses. For instance, MySQL supports a flexible and robust password policy system, ensuring that user credentials remain complex and hard to crack. Encrypting data during transit is vital, and MySQL’s support for SSL ensures that data remains secure as it moves across networks.

MySQL also features a firewall plugin. This feature in MySQL allows administrators to establish a whitelist of SQL statements, ensuring that any unauthorized or potentially harmful query is blocked right at the gate. While MySQL might not offer as comprehensive encryption as MariaDB, it does provide binary log encryption, ensuring that sensitive log data remains secure.


MariaDB vs. MySQL
Data security and protection are extremely important in database solutions.


MariaDB, being a fork of MySQL, inherited its robust security measures. However, the team behind MariaDB has been resolute in its mission to enhance and build upon that foundation, providing a series of security features that make it stand out. MariaDB offers a wide range of encryption options, covering data at rest, in transit, and during specific query processes. This comprehensive encryption ensures data remains unreadable to potential intruders.

While both databases offer user privilege systems, MariaDB introduces a more refined, role-based access control mechanism, allowing for more granular control over who accesses what. In addition, MariaDB includes an audit plugin. This feature allows for detailed logging of database activity, ensuring that administrators can keep a close eye on what’s happening within the database and who’s accessing the data.

MariaDB’s commitment to data integrity is further highlighted by its advanced backup features. Tools like MariaBackup ensure efficient and reliable backups, while its support for multiple storage engines can offer additional backup strategies tailored to specific needs. All in all, this adds up to a robust security suite for MariaDB.

MariaDB vs. MySQL: 5 Must-Know Facts

  1. MariaDB was created by the original developers of MySQL after concerns about Oracle’s intentions with MySQL.
  2. While both systems are fundamentally similar, MariaDB offers more storage engines than MySQL.
  3. MySQL remains the most commonly used system, but MariaDB has grown in popularity, especially among open-source enthusiasts.
  4. MariaDB tends to have quicker and more frequent updates.
  5. MySQL employs a dual licensing model, which might be restrictive for some developers.

MariaDB vs. MySQL: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Choose?

There are countless database management systems available to developers out there. Even more challenging, the choice between leading database systems in MariaDB vs. MySQL isn’t black and white. At a glance, it might seem like splitting hairs, but digging deeper reveals key distinctions that can influence a developer’s preference.

If you’re gravitating towards an open-source platform that boasts a wide array of storage engines, then MariaDB stands out. Its commitment to remaining open-source and the continuous expansion of its features make it a worthy contender. On the other hand, if familiarity and stability are at the forefront of your priorities, MySQL, with its long-standing reputation and extensive ecosystem, is hard to beat. This holds true for large-scale enterprises, budding startups, and individual developers alike.

Both MariaDB and MySQL have carved a niche for themselves as esteemed database systems. Their comprehensive documentation and robust support communities further attest to their dominance in 2023. So, when deciding between the two, it’s less about which is objectively better and more about what resonates with your particular requirements, expertise, and the nature of your project. Whether you opt for MariaDB or MySQL, you can be confident that you’re leveraging a top-tier database system.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is MariaDB fully compatible with MySQL?

Absolutely! MariaDB has been meticulously designed to serve as a drop-in replacement for MySQL. This means it maintains full compatibility, including any applications and tools from MySQL.

Why was MariaDB created if MySQL already existed?

The inception of MariaDB was influenced by concerns stemming from Oracle’s acquisition of MySQL. There were apprehensions about potential restrictive measures, modifications, or even the direction Oracle might take MySQL in the future.

Can I switch from MySQL to MariaDB without any issues?

In most instances, the shift from MySQL to MariaDB is quite seamless. However, as a best practice, it’s crucial to always backup your data.

Is MariaDB faster than MySQL?

While benchmarks indicate that MariaDB might possess a marginal advantage in speed, it’s essential to recognize that real-world performance isn’t just about speed. It can greatly vary depending on specific configurations, the nature of the workload, and other factors unique to each use case.

Which has better support: MariaDB or MySQL?

Both have robust community support, but commercial support options might differ. Oracle backs MySQL, while MariaDB has the MariaDB Foundation and several third-party service providers.

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