What is MySQL?

Posted on: August 29th, 2022
By: Tadeo Martinez

MySQL is one of the most widely known technologies in the modern big data ecosystem. After Oracle Database, MySQL is the second most popular database. 

MySQL is an open-source database management system used by millions of websites for everything from storing customer information to powering intricate eCommerce systems. It powers some of the most accessed applications, including Twitter, Facebook, Netflix, Airbnb, Uber, Shopify, and Booking.com.

Despite its popularity, some people don’t know what MySQL is or how it works. Let’s break it down.

Understanding MySQL in more details 

MySQL is a relational database management system (RDBMS) with a client-server model.

Its basic function is to store, organize, and retrieve data as requested by other software applications—which may run either on the same computer or on another computer across a network (including the Internet). 

MySQL is named after co-founder Monty Widenius’s daughter: My. The SQL part of the name stands for “Structured Query Language”. 

The MySQL software delivers a fast, multi-threaded, multi-user, and robust SQL database server. MySQL Server is intended for mission-critical, heavy-load production systems and embedding into mass-deployed software. Its innovative architecture makes it possible to handle very large databases quickly. 

MySQL is an important component of an open-source enterprise stack called LAMP. This stack also consists of Linux Apache HTTP Server and Perl/PHP/Python. Online manuals are available to help new users find their way around MySQL.

When was it created? 

It was created in 1994 by a Swedish company called MySQL AB. The first version of MySQL appeared on 23 May 1995.

The company was acquired by Sun Microsystems in 2008 and then by Oracle Corporation in 2010.  

It was originally created to be used in small projects, but it has since grown in scale and is now used in some of the world’s largest and most demanding environments. MySQL is known for its reliability, speed, and ease of use. It is also a popular choice for web applications that require a database.

How does it work? 

MySQL is based on the structures and functionalities of an RDBMS. An RDBMS stores data in tables, which are similar to folders in a file system. This makes it different from other database management systems, which store data in one big table. MySQL uses a specific language called SQL (Structured Query Language) to manage the data in the tables. 

Users can access these tables to insert, search, update, and delete data. A table contains rows (records) with data, and each row has multiple columns (fields). Relational databases are easy to scale: simply add more tables as needed. 

MySQL runs along with several utility programs which support the administration of MySQL servers. Commands are sent to the MySQL server via the MySQL client, which is installed on a device.

Other features include the ability to create views (customized data presentations), run multiple queries simultaneously, and permissions that let you control who can access which data. 

Primary uses of MySQL 

MySQL is a powerful tool for managing databases. It is widely used in web applications, and its flexibility and ease of use make it an ideal choice for many purposes. 

The primary use case for MySQL is to create and manage websites or applications, data manipulation, and data reporting on both Windows and Linux platforms. You can also use MySQL to store the data that we receive from different projects and build data models.

It also stores data in a structured way, supports applications that work with said data, provides security and recovery options in the event of system failure, handles replication between databases, and manages user permissions. 

In addition to these basic features, MySQL offers a wide range of other capabilities, such as Full-Text Search, geo-spatial data support, NoSQL capabilities, and much more. 

How does it relate to MariaDB? 

MariaDB is a fork of the MySQL project, created after Oracle Corporation acquired MySQL AB in 2010. Although MariaDB is compatible with MySQL, it offers several enhancements, such as improved performance, greater scalability, and better stability. 

MariaDB is also open source and community-driven, meaning that it is constantly evolving to meet the needs of users. As a result, MariaDB is an attractive option for businesses that require a robust and reliable database management system.

MariaDB aims to be 100% compatible with MySQL, so that code written for MySQL can be used with MariaDB with no changes. In addition, MariaDB includes some additional features that are not found in MySQL. For example, MariaDB has a dynamic plugin interface that allows new storage engines to be added without recompiling the server. 

Why is MySQL so popular?

MySQL has been one of the most popular database management systems for over two decades. There are numerous reasons for its enduring popularity, but some of the most important include:

High performance

A wide array of cluster servers supports MySQL. MySQL can assist you smoothly with optimal speed, storing massive amounts of big e-Commerce data or performing heavy business intelligence activities.

Flexible and easy to use

You can use it for multiple different purposes, from managing a small personal blog to powering a large corporate website. It is also relatively easy to use, making it a good choice for those new to database management systems.


MySQL comes with a number of security features that help to protect your data from unauthorized access. These features include password encryption, role-based access controls, and secure socket layer (SSL) support.

Widely compatible

MySQL is compatible with many operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and macOS. It can also be used with various programming languages, such as PHP, Java, Python, Ruby, and more.

Failsafe and backups

MySQL is a robust database management system designed to be highly available. It includes features such as automatic failover, online backup, and replication. These features help to ensure that your data is always available, even in the event of a system failure.

Why does WordPress use mainly MySQL?

WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that enables users to create and manage a website or blog. WordPress is written in PHP, a programming language that interacts with databases. 

To store the information entered by users (such as posts, comments, and pages), WordPress uses a database management system (DBMS). The most common DBMS used by WordPress is MySQL. 

There are several reasons why WordPress might choose to use MySQL over other available databases. First, MySQL is an open-source database, meaning it is free to use. This can be helpful for WordPress because it keeps costs down.

In addition, MySQL is relatively easy to use and understand as opposed to other databases, which can be helpful for WordPress users who are not experienced with databases. 

Secondly, MySQL is a very popular database, which means a lot of resources are available for users who need help or troubleshooting.  

Other database options besides MySQL 

Any software application relies on databases. To develop almost each kind of software application, you will need one or more databases: 

Currently, there are whopping 343 databases. Here we will shortlist databases from them:

MySQL is reliable and relatively easy to use

As the world rapidly moves towards digital forms of communication and storage, the demand for reliable database management systems will only continue to grow. 

Originally, MySQL was designed to manage massive databases faster than existing database software. Despite being typically installed on individual computers, MySQL now supports distributed applications and is included in most cloud data platforms.

Compared to many data storage and processing solutions today, MySQL is an older technology, but it is still popular and useful. MySQL has enjoyed a recent resurgence due to its speed, reliability, ease of use, and wide compatibility with specialized modern storage systems.

*fun fact: you can use SSH to edit the MySQL tables, rows and cells

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