The State of PostgreSQL: Not So Easy to Kill

by Ostatic Staff - Jan. 07, 2010

If you follow open source news at all, it's been pretty hard to ignore MySQL the last few months. With a desperate campaign to stop Oracle gobbling up MySQL, the FLOSS poster database has been front and center. As usual, the PostgreSQL community has been quietly coding away and working on the 8.5 release scheduled for the first quarter of 2010.

However, one of Monty Widenius' arguments about the vulnerability of PostgreSQL has caught the attention of the PostgreSQL community. In a comment on OStatic, Widenius says that "PostgreSQL can also be killed" by a company like Oracle:

Yes, PostgreSQL can also be killed; To prove the case, think what would happen if someone managed to ensure that the top 20 core PostgreSQL developers could not develop PostgreSQL anymore or if each of these developers would fork their own PostgreSQL project.

Greg Sabino Mullane, posting on the End Point Blog, points out how silly that argument is:

The catch comes from being able to actually stop 20 of those people from working on Postgres. There are basically two ways to do this: Oracle could buy out a company, or they could hire (buy out) a person. The first problem is that the Postgres community is very widely distributed. If you look at the people on the community contributors page, you'll see that the 32 people work for 24 different companies. Further, no one company holds sway: the median is one company, and the high water mark is a mere three developers. All of this is much better than it was years ago, in the total number and in the distribution.

In fact, PostgreSQL as a project is pretty healthy, and shows how vulnerable projects like MySQL are to the winds of change. PostgreSQL could die tomorrow, if a huge group of its contributors dropped out for one reason or another and the remainder of the community didn't take up the slack. But that's exceedingly unlikely. The existing model for PostgreSQL development ensures that no single entity can control it, it can't be purchased and if someone decides to fork the project, the odds are that the remaining community would be strong enough to continue without a serious glitch.

It's not to say that every FLOSS project that's controlled by a single entity will go the way of MySQL. But what's happened to MySQL could happen to other projects where one company holds control over the project. Something to think about when deciding what projects to work with, adopt, and depend on in 2010.

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.