MariaDB vs MySQL: A head-to-head comparison for data enthusiasts

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In today’s data-driven world choosing the right database solution for your application plays a pivotal role in its performance and speed. The importance of choosing an appropriate database forms the backbone of your organization’s data needs, whether you're designing a small-scale application or developing a complex enterprise system, understanding the features of different databases is essential to align your choice with specific needs.

MariaDb vs MySql

This comprehensive guide aims to unravel the complexities surrounding the selection of relational databases, providing valuable insights into popular database management systems like MySQL and MariaDB.  

What is MySQL?  

MySQL is a widely used open-source relational database management system (RDBMS) that helps in handling and organizing structured data. It is well known for its reliability, scalability, and ease of use, making it a preferred choice for a wide range of applications, from small-scale projects to large-scale enterprise solutions.  There are multiple enterprise editions available in MySQL including MySQL Community Edition, MySQL Workbench, MySQL Standard Edition, and MySQL Enterprise Edition in MySQL client package.


What is MariaDB?  

MariaDB is an open-source relational database management system (RDBMS) that emerged as a fork of the MySQL database. The project was initiated by developers of MySQL, in response to concerns within the open-source community about the future development and direction of MySQL under Oracle Corporation ownership.  


Similarities between MySQL and MariaDB

As both are relational database management systems MySQL and MariaDB had a similar development process so here are some key similarities between them :  

Supports SQL

Both MariaDB and MySQL are relational database management systems (RDBMS) that follow the SQL (Structured Query Language) standard to interact with data.

Data Types

MariaDB and MySQL support similar data types for storing and manipulating data. This includes basic types such as integers, floating-point numbers, strings, date/time types, etc.

Storage Engines

MySQL and MariaDB databases support multiple storage engines, allowing users to choose the engine that best suits their needs.  

Command-Line Interface

MariaDB and MySQL provide a command-line interface (CLI) that allows users to interact with the databases using SQL commands.  


MariaDB and MySQL implement user authentication mechanisms and access controls to secure the databases.  

Cross-Platform Compatibility

MariaDB and MySQL are compatible with various operating systems, including Linux distributions, Windows, and macOS.  

Data Backup

MariaDB and MySQL support replication mechanisms for creating copies of databases for backup and scaling purposes. They also offer solutions for high-availability configurations to ensure continuous database availability.  

MariaDB vs MySQL: Key Differences  

MariaDB vs MySQL

Storage engines  

MySQL Storage Engines

Storage engines are specialized software modules responsible for managing how data is stored, indexed, and retrieved within the database. It is primarily used to organize, store data, and boost performance by using the right engine for your data type.


MariaDB supports the following storage engines: InnoDB, Aria, TokuDB, MEMORY storage engine (HEAP), COLUMNSTORE, ROCKSDB


MySQL supports the following storage engines: InnoDB, MyISAM, MEMORY storage engine (HEAP), ARCHIVE, CSV, BLACKHOLE, and TokuDB.

Both MySQL and MariaDB share the InnoDB storage engine as the default, which is widely used for its ACID compliance, row-level locking, crash recovery, support for transactions, etc. Both relational databases offer similar engines like MEMORY and TokuDB for specific use cases.  

MariaDB continues to introduce new storage engines and enhancements, providing users with additional options and performance improvements.  

Native JSON data type support  


MariaDB supports additional features like dynamic columns and virtual columns for flexible JSON data storage. Dynamic columns enable the storage of JSON-like data with varying structures, while virtual columns, allow for the creation of columns deriving values from JSON expressions. JSON data retrieval and query speed and performance are fast in MariaDB as it support indexing on virtual columns.


MySQL supports a set of JSON functions to query and manipulate JSON data directly within SQL statements. JSON path expressions simplify the extraction of specific elements from JSON documents, and MySQL supports indexing on JSON fields using the generated columns approach.  



MariaDB follows an open and community-driven development approach, facilitating collaboration and maintaining transparency with its users.  


It was developed and maintained by Oracle Corporation, which has prompted concerns within the open-source community about the level of openness in its development.  



Both MariaDB and MySQL provide encryption capabilities to enhance the security of sensitive data, but there are some minor differences in their offerings.  


MariaDB supports multiple encryption features, including data-at-rest encryption for tables and tablespaces. It uses the InnoDB storage engine as its default, which supports transparent page-level encryption for both individual tables and the entire tablespaces. This encryption ensures that data stored on disk stays confidential, protecting against unauthorized access by providing data masking features.  


MySQL also offers powerful encryption features and provides options for encrypting data at different levels (data masking), including the entire InnoDB tablespaces, specific tables, or individual columns. It supports the InnoDB Transparent Tablespace Encryption for encrypting tablespaces, and MySQL users can also implement application-level encryption for specific columns using functions like AES_ENCRYPT and AES_DECRYPT.  


MySQL and MariaDB, being closely related database management systems, share similarities in their data replication capabilities. Both databases offer robust solutions for replicating data to ensure high availability, fault tolerance, and load balancing.


MariaDB's Galera Cluster provides a straightforward way to achieve multi-master synchronous replication, which can be advantageous for certain use cases. It also supports asynchronous replication where a master server asynchronously replicates changes to one or more slave servers.  

MariaDB Replication


MySQL's replication mechanisms, including asynchronous, semi-synchronous, and Group Replication, offer flexibility to cater to different requirements.

MySQL Replication



As MariaDB is evolving rapidly, it may not offer the same level of established stability as MySQL.  


MySQL has a longer track record and wider adoption, thus it is considered to be more stable.



MariaDB often introduces performance optimizations and additional features that are not found in MySQL. This includes improvements related to query speed, resource utilization, and overall database performance.  


While MySQL does incorporate performance enhancements, MariaDB has been more proactive in introducing features to address specific performance-related challenges.  

License  And Editions  


It is primarily licensed under the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL), which is considered more permissive than MySQL's GPL.  

MariaDB Foundation Edition is the core open-source platform, freely available for anyone to use, modify, and distribute, and includes a wide range of features, including the InnoDB storage engine, Galera Cluster, and extensive JSON functions to handle JSON data types.

MariaDB SkySQL is a Cloud-hosted database service based on MariaDB Enterprise Edition.


It is dual licensed under the GPL and a commercial license. The commercial license is suitable for organizations that prefer not to comply with the GPL's open-source requirements.

MySQL Community Edition is freely available for download and use. It is ideal for personal projects and small-scale deployments.

MySQL Workbench is a visual design and administration tool for the Community Edition that Streamlines database management with graphical tools.  

MySQL Standard Edition offers additional features like partitioning, stored procedures, and replication and is suitable for medium-sized deployments with moderate workloads.

MySQL Enterprise Edition is the top tier, packed with advanced features like high availability, clustering, and performance optimization specially designed for large-scale data applications.    

Community Support    


MariaDB has a thriving community with over 1.2 million registered users on its forums, where discussions cover diverse topics related to troubleshooting and more. The community actively contributes to the development, with more than 25,000 code commits, 5,000 bugs reported, and 9,000 issues resolved.  


MySQL boasts a robust and expansive community support system with over 8 million registered users on its forums. The MySQL community has actively contributed to its development with more than 62,000 code commits and 29,000 bugs reported.


Choosing the right database MySQL vs MariaDB 

Both the relational database management systems MySQL and MariaDB have similar functionality and also have Oracle database compatibility. MySQL and MariaDB support similar syntax with a minor difference in some functions.

Choosing the right database depends on your needs so here are some key factors to consider before selecting a database:  

Performance: MariaDB often outperforms MySQL while handling large datasets and high traffic. MySQL is generally considered stable, but performance may lag behind MariaDB in some scenarios.

Features: MariaDB more actively adopts the latest features and optimizations due to its open-source nature. MySQL prioritizes stability and compatibility, leading to a slower pace of new feature additions.  

Stability: MySQL is more stable as compared with MariaDB, which may not have the same level of established stability.  

Ecosystem: MySQL has a larger and more mature ecosystem of existing tools and plugins whereas the MariaDB ecosystem is still developing.  

If performance and scalability are your top priorities then consider MariaDB. If you need the most stable and established platform MySQL might be a better fit.  



The choice between MySQL and MariaDB depends entirely on the specific requirements and considerations. Both database management systems share a common origin, and their compatibility allows for seamless transitions between them. MariaDB's focus on unique features like dynamic and virtual columns makes it an effective choice for those seeking innovation. On the other hand, MySQL, backed by Oracle Database Corporation, offers a stable and well-established solution with a rich ecosystem of tools and plugins.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)- MariaDB vs MySQL

Is MariaDB syntax the same as MySQL?  Yes, MariaDB syntax is almost similar to SQL syntax because MariaDB was originally a MySQL fork. Both MySQL and MariaDB support the same Structured Query Language (SQL) for interacting with databases, making it easy for developers familiar with MySQL to transition to MariaDB.

Is MariaDB faster than MySQL?  MariaDB is often considered to be faster than MySQL as it delivers performance gains, especially for complex queries, high traffic, and data replication. Its optimized query optimizer, storage engine, and concurrency handling give it an edge.  

Is MariaDB replacing MySQL?  In many cases, you can use MySQL instead of MariaDB, and vice versa, with minimal modifications to your applications. As MariaDB was initially created as a fork of MySQL, both databases are nearly similar and can be used interchangeably.  

Is MariaDB free to use?  Yes, MariaDB is one of the best open-source relational databases and is completely free to use and modify. Its free and open-source nature is one of its key advantages over proprietary databases like MySQL.  

Is MariaDB more secure than Mysql?  MariaDB and MySQL have similar security features some of which include encryption of data at various levels, data masking, row-level locking, etc.

What are the advantages of MariaDB?  The advantages of MariaDB include  

It is faster than MySQL for complex queries and high data traffic.  

It is free to use and modify.

It handles large datasets and traffic with ease.  

It is highly customizable with plugins and custom engines.  

Is MariaDB owned by Oracle Corporation?  No, MariaDB is not owned by Oracle. MariaDB is an open-source relational database management system that was created as a fork of MySQL. It is developed and maintained by the MariaDB Foundation, an independent nonprofit organization.  

Is MariaDB relational or a NoSQL database?  Though MariaDB supports some features closer to NoSQL databases, like dynamic columns and JSON functions, MariaDB is a relational database (RDBMS) that stores data in structured tables.  

Which one should I choose: MySQL or MariaDB? The choice between MySQL and MariaDB depends on specific requirements and considerations. Some factors to consider before opting for a database include features, performance optimizations, licensing preferences, and the level of community or commercial support needed.  

Is MySQL free to use?  Yes, MySQL is free to use and it is released under the GNU General Public License (GPL). The GPL is an open-source license that allows users to freely use, modify, and distribute MySQL. There are various MySQL enterprise edition additional plans with different costs.

Written by
Rupal Sharma


MariaDB vs MySQL: A head-to-head comparison for data enthusiasts