Monty Still Trying to "Save" MySQL

by Ostatic Staff - Jan. 04, 2010

Let it never be said that Monty Widenius gave up without a fight. Widenius hasn't given up hope of blocking Oracle taking MySQL as part of its Sun acquisition. He started before the holidays by calling for a letter writing campaign, and has stepped it up with an Internet petition and a personal email campaign to recruit signatures. Here's hoping it will fail.

It probably wouldn't be fair to call it spamming, but he's gotten pretty aggressive by emailing (in his own words) "every person that I have ever communicated with regarding MySQL." You might not agree with Widenius, but at least you have to credit him with tenacity.

You can read the latest missive on Widenius' blog. The petition and arguments against the acquisition are at

Of particular interest is the "GPL is not the answer" page, which argues that the GPL "right to fork," isn't enough to protect companies and users of MySQL.

It seems, however, that the real flaw isn't with the GPL — it's with the ownership model of MySQL that has left it vulnerable to acquisition by a potentially hostile entity. The GPL protects all the user and developer freedoms that it's supposed to protect. What Widenius and (oddly) Richard Stallman seem to be arguing is that MySQL must not only be a successful FLOSS project, but a successful proprietary business venture as well.

It may well be that Oracle's acquisition of MySQL will have a negative impact. But if so, it's the natural consequence of its development model and the way that MySQL AB led its community. If the GPL isn't enough to protect the community, then perhaps we should have insisted on more from MySQL AB before relying on it so heavily.

If companies using MySQL dual-licensing have something to lose when the code falls into the "wrong hands," perhaps they should have thought of this before embracing the product. No one should have been surprised that this could happen, particularly once MySQL was snarfed up by Sun.

One must also wonder whether nothing else owned by Sun is worth "saving," but that's a digression for another day.

Maybe Widenius will be successful with this campaign, but it seems unlikely — and he shouldn't be. The FLOSS community needs to be mindful of long-term commercial success and sustainable development for projects like MySQL, and the kind of business model and development community needed. If MySQL can't be "saved," it will serve as an object lesson in what to avoid for future projects, and that's probably more useful in the long run.

Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier is a longtime FLOSS advocate, and currently works for Novell as the community manager for openSUSE. Prior to joining Novell, Brockmeier worked as a technology journalist covering the open source beat for a number of publications, including Linux Magazine, Linux Weekly News,,, IBM developerWorks, and many others.