MariaDB vs MySQL: Is MariaDB the same as MySQL?
MariaDB vs MySQL-optimizdba

MySQL database was released in 1995, and today, it’s one of the most widely used databases by small companies and enterprises alike. MariaDB, on the other hand, is a fork of MySQL. A small group of developers decided to add more features and capabilities to the MySQL database, which MariaDB is all about. When it comes to MariaDB vs MySQL, understanding the differences will help you to make the right choice on which DB suits your application best. Not only that, migrating data between these two databases needs a thorough understanding of where they differ and how. In this article, we will evaluate the commonalities and the areas of differentiation between the two databases.

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MariaDB vs MySQL

Both MariaDB and MySQL are open-source software. However, MySQL has proprietary code in their enterprise edition. Even though the expectations are for these two DBs to be similar, their gap has increased over the years. Across the versions, there are tens, if not hundreds, of differences between the two. 

MariaDB developers post these differences in releases in their incompatibility documentation

1. What’s still shared between the two? 

When building applications, we use connectors that help in database-application communication. These connectors remain the same between the two databases, and they can be used interchangeably.  At the core, both are extremely similar. The database definitions, and also the table definitions remain the same across the two. 

The DB Protocols and the exposed APIs are also the same between the two. Underlying components and technologies vary, but the abstraction layer that forms the APIs has remained the same. MariaDB developers actively use core features from the MySQL database to maintain uniformity. These code merges are the reason why there are several similarities to date. 

2. Major Differences

As I mentioned earlier, the gap between the two databases has widened in recent years. Let’s look at some of the significant differences. 

a. Key Management Options

MariaDB comes with three main encryption key management options. They are: file key management, AWS key management, and Eperi key management plugins. While the AWS key management comes out of the box in MariaDB, most plugins in MySQL are present only in the enterprise version. 

b. Database Editor and Interaction mediums

MySQL database comes with a powerful editor and client software called the MySQL Shell. The MySQL Shell uses the MySQL X protocol to communicate with the database which is not supported by MariaDB. Thus the shell cannot be used with MariaDB as of today. However, MariaDB supports the MySQL command line client. Most of the time, we use the CLI to connect with either of the databases. 

c. Handling Threads 

MySQL databases come with a static number of threads that it uses to handle the queries. However the paid Enterprise version of MySQLsupports thread pooling. On the other hand MariaDB is much more flexible. We get threadpool based connections by default. This enables us to execute queries much more efficiently and manage the CPU load well.

d. Native JSON support 

With newer MySQL releases, JSON is natively supported. The database doesn’t store the JSON as strings anymore. This is a massive advantage to MySQL in the MySQL vs MariaDB race. However MariaDB hasn’t implemented this because they argue that it doesn’t add much to the query performance.

e. Database Usage

Though both databases are open source, MySQL is controlled by Oracle Corporation. This has led to the initiation of the MySQL Enterprise edition that offers much more capabilities than the community edition MySQL database. On the other hand,  MariaDB is entirely open source. Because of this, all features released by MariaDB are available to everyone free of cost. This is a very promising feature for many companies who need high flexibility with their databases. 

f. Storage Engines

MySQL and MariaDB both support InnoDB which is one of the most widely used storage engines out there. But  it is not the only one. MariaDB for example supports XtraDB which is a fork of InnoDB but has been enhanced for performance. Overall MariaDB supports a much larger variety of database engines when compared to MySQL. 


Choosing the right database is extremely important. Sometimes the requirements have completely open-source as the primary criteria while other times it may be performance. Based on these requirements, we need to carefully evaluate the pros and cons of each database in contention. 

Earlier, we had made a quantitative comparison between two fully open-source databases MariaDB and PostgreSQL. The intention of this article was to highlight the differences and similarities between two very similar databases. In the fight between MariaDB vs MySQL , there is not going to be a clear winner. By that, I mean, the right database depends on the use case, the business requirements, and even the allocated budget. We have looked at various points where each of the databases are stronger. The application requirements need to be aligned with topics such as performance, flexibility, the storage engines, and a conclusion needs to be drawn. 

Both the databases are used by large enterprises.While companies like Github, Facebook, and Netflix use MySQL, companies such as Google, Wikipedia, and CregsList have chosen MariaDB server. So, both databases are powerful but cater to different needs and we need to evaluate our requirements before choosing the right one.