MariaDB, PostgreSQL, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle Database, and Microsoft Access – there are so many database management software(s) for WordPress. But the most popular content management system of the time uses MySQL – DBMS, released in 1995, almost 30 years back.
So, it does open the question: Why does WordPress use MySQL? What makes MySQL so tempting that the WordPress team has never considered replacing it?
In this blog post, we will explore these questions to find out why MySQL is the best DBMS for WordPress.
Why does WordPress need a Database?
WordPress needs a database to store & manage the website’s content. There are pages, posts, HTML, CSS, PHP code, tags, categories, user information, comments, plugins, themes, and site settings to store so they can be used whenever required.
WordPress and every website we open is fetching content from somewhere – that somewhere is a database. Similarly, WordPress also requires a database to keep all the content securely and safely organized in tables, columns, and rows. Using admin privileges, these databases can be modified to update, delete, or add new information. For databases, WordPress uses MySQL as its core database management system.
MySQL is one of the requirements to run WordPress along with PHP and an operating system. When you buy WordPress hosting, the WordPress installation comes with a pre-installed MySQL. However, some companies allow the user to choose between MariaDB and MySQL. The default DBMS is MySQL for the majority.
If you are a blogger or web designer, you would never have to interact with the MySQL database. The WordPress admin interface has all the functions and features to maintain the data within the MySQL database. Still, it is good to learn about the technology your CMS is built upon and why that specific technology is being used.
What is MySQL?
MySQL is an open-source relational database management system (RDBMS) that uses Structured Query Language (SQL), a popular language for databases. It was founded by Michael Widenius and David Axmark, two Swedish developers, to create a database system that would be fast, reliable, and suitable for web applications.
The first version of MySQL was released in 1995. At the time, developers were playing with dynamic websites and applications, so MySQL quickly became popular. In the late 90s, its popularity gained momentum, primarily due to its performance, reliability, and open-source nature.
In 2008, Sun Microsystems acquired MySQL; in 2010, Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems. Hence, MySQL comes under the Oracle brand. Oracle continued the development of the open-source version of MySQL while offering a commercial version as a separate product. WordPress uses the open-source version of MySQL, so when we say MySQL, we are talking about open-source MySQL’s version.
Reasons why WordPress uses MySQL
Let’s look deeper at why WordPress uses MySQL for database management.
#1 B2 was built using MySQL
In 2001, Michel Valdrighi got fed up with Blogger and started developing an alternative with PHP and MySQL. He was learning the server-side language PHP (as it was relatively more straightforward than Pearl), so he picked PHP. At that moment, MySQL was popular among developers for making dynamic websites, as we mentioned earlier in our article. That’s how MySQL was included in the b2 tech stack.
The combination of PHP and MySQL enables b2 to become an easy-to-use and fast blogging tool.
Michel said about his choice of MySQL, ‘Pages are generated dynamically from the MySQL database, so no clumsy ‘rebuilding’ is involved. It also means faster search/display capabilities and the ability to serve your news in different ‘templates’ without hassle.’
After several years and variations, this b2 blogging platform grew into a WordPress platform. However, the foundational tech stack – PHP & MySQL – was present in every iteration. As Matt (founder of WordPress) clarifies, ‘When you look at WordPress’ code and think ‘Wow, that’s weird, why did they do that this way?’, well often that’s because they kept doing things the way they were done in b2, and I sucked at PHP.’
Despite the release of better and faster DBMS like MariaDB, MySQL remains an integrated part of WordPress. Although you can use the DBMS of your choice, the default WordPress installation typically comes with MySQL. WordPress maintainers wisely kept what was not broken.
#2 MySQL is a top performer
You may wonder if MySQL has become necessary due to technology lock-in. No. MySQL kept performing and became the most popular and widely adopted database management system.
Per the DB-engine rankings, MySQL has continuously won the most popular open-source DBMS tag for over a decade.
With such fantastic adoption comes the community, community-generated content, solutions, contributions, and participation, enabling the snowball acceleration for MySQL.
#3 Open source
The following primary reason WordPress prefers MySQL is because of the (GNU) – General Public License (GPL). This license enables users to download and use the software for free. Everyone can change the source code to suit their project’s needs. That’s why it integrates excellently with other open-source technologies and WordPress, including PHP and Linux.
WordPress was designed to democratize publishing so everyone can have a voice on the web. It cannot be possible if the platform relies on costly licenses. So, every technology involved in WordPress development is free to use, modify, and available for reuse. This way, the end user does not have to pay to use WordPress.
Note: WordPress.com’s hosting plans are different. With WordPress host, you pay for the server to keep your WordPress installation live and available online. They don’t charge you for the WordPress platform.
Using open-source technologies enables maintainers to keep WordPress open, so other open-source software companies can also develop for WordPress. This open-source strategy helped the ecosystem to grow. There are thousands of WordPress theme and plugin creators, enhancing the platform’s capabilities day by day.
The open-source MySQL at the backend allows WordPress to remain open-source and accessible to everyone.
MySQL has been evolving for three decades. With such an extended period, the DBMS went through several attacks and vulnerabilities. As it is used by WordPress, the CMS with the most websites on the internet, it does attract many threats. Hackers and shady organizations are always looking for ways to find the vulnerability, as it will give them access to nearly 43% of all websites.
Some of the widespread vulnerabilities of MySQL are SQL injection, cross-site scripting, denial of service, race conditions, and remote pre-auth user enumeration. Despite all this, you rarely hear of a WordPress website getting hacked due to the MySQL vulnerability. It is because MySQL gets airtight with WordPress and does not leave any space for hackers to make an attack.
MySQL is intrinsically secure; however, you have to follow the best practices to keep it safe. WordPress keeps the platform compatible with the latest stable version of MySQL and pushes updates if there are any chances of vulnerability. A secure database management system is critical when powering 800+ million websites, and MySQL is more than reliable to handle this pressure.
#5 Highly scalable
High scalability is one of the reasons why MySQL is a popular choice for various web applications and services, including WordPress. MySQL achieves scalability through several ways:
- Replication: MySQL supports replication, which involves creating copies (replicas) of the database on separate servers. This allows for the distribution of read-heavy workloads among these replicas, reducing the load on the primary database server. It enhances read scalability and can improve fault tolerance.
- Clustering: MySQL can be deployed in clusters, where multiple database servers share the load. Clustering can distribute read-and-write operations across the group, offering improved performance and high availability. Solutions like MySQL Cluster provide this capability.
- Sharing: Sharing involves partitioning data across multiple database servers based on specific criteria (e.g. by customer, region, or time). This horizontal partitioning allows for the distribution of data and workload, enabling MySQL to handle larger datasets and increased traffic.
- Vertical Scaling: MySQL can be vertically scaled by upgrading the server hardware or optimizing database configurations. This approach is practical when dealing with increased load on a single server.
Large websites like TechCrunch, Microsoft News, TedBlog, BBC America, PlayStation, Skype, and Yelp handle high traffic every month – and they all are on WordPress. WordPress benefits significantly from the high scalability of MySQL, as it empowers websites to grow and handle increasing numbers of visitors, data, and concurrent users. Whether it’s a personal blog experiencing unexpected traffic spikes or a high-traffic news website, MySQL’s scalability ensures that WordPress can deliver a seamless user experience.
#6 High uptime
MySQL, with the help of specific configuration and deployment strategies, can offer high uptime and high availability. Here are some factors that contribute to MySQL’s ability to provide high uptime:
- Replication: MySQL supports master-slave replication, where changes to a master database are replicated to one or more slave databases. This redundancy ensures that if the controller server experiences downtime or issues, one of the slave servers can take over, minimizing downtime.
- Load balancing: You can distribute incoming database requests across multiple MySQL servers using load balancing techniques and tools. This improves performance and provides fault tolerance, as one server can take over if another becomes unavailable.
- Clustering: MySQL clustering solutions, such as MySQL Cluster, are designed for high availability. They distribute data and queries across multiple nodes, ensuring the cluster can continue serving requests without interruption, even if one node fails.
- Automated failover: In many high-availability setups, automated failover mechanisms are implemented. These systems monitor the health of database servers and automatically switch traffic to a healthy server if a failure is detected, reducing downtime.
- Data backups: Regularly scheduled backups and recovery plans are essential for minimizing data loss and ensuring that the database can be restored in case of unexpected outages.
All these features make MySQL highly available, and eventually WordPress. Often, WordPress hosting companies include all of this in their plans. They only say the high uptime for the website, but that high uptime means the company will utilize all of MySQL’s features and more to keep the website up and live. Such high availability makes WordPress more lucrative for critical businesses and helps expand toward power users.
#7 Cross-platform operation
MySQL is known for its robust cross-platform compatibility. It can run on a wide range of operating systems, including but not limited to Windows, macOS, various flavors of Linux (such as Ubuntu, CentOS, and Debian), FreeBSD, and more. This cross-platform support is a significant advantage for MySQL, as it allows users and developers to deploy the database system on their preferred operating system without encountering major compatibility issues.
This cross-platform compatibility is crucial for WordPress, which aims to be accessible to users and developers regardless of their preferred operating system. Using MySQL, WordPress ensures its core functionality remains consistent across various platforms, maintaining a consistent user experience for all. This compatibility simplifies the installation and deployment process for WordPress on different servers and environments, making it easier for developers to work with the platform.
#8 Community support
When it comes to open source technologies, having community support is critical to tackling the complex challenges. MySQL has a solid and active community it gained in the last three decades.
There are 100s of MySQL dedicated blogs, educational courses, forums, tutorial websites, hosting businesses, commercial support providers, projects, and more. MySQL is even a part of many educational institute’s curricula. The project has 9k+ stars, 3k+ forks, and 100+ contributors.
Plus, it is backed by Oracle, a trendy enterprise DBMS solution provider. With such strong support comes the confidence that MySQL is not going anywhere soon. Moreover, the community provides help to new users, with solutions to already discovered problems or any further issues. So, if WordPress novices are stuck with a MySQL-related issue, they only have to do a Google search to find the solution.
MySQL is not a database with which WordPress has stuck due to its use in foundation. There are many excellent features MySQL offers that WordPress has leveraged to become the most popular CMS.
Here are the most important reasons why WordPress uses MySQL:
- b2 was built using MySQL, and WordPress is a fork of b2.
- MySQL remains the most popular & adopted open-source database management system
- MySQL is open-source software; hence, it keeps WordPress open-source
- MySQL is highly secure, making the WordPress secure
- MySQL can be scaled up quickly to accommodate the increasing website traffic
- MySQL comes with capabilities to keep it up during stress
- MySQL can function across various platforms, making the user experience seamless
- MySQL has a very active community to educate and help the next gen of MySQL users
This article helped you understand why MySQL is the default choice for WordPress. Please reach out if you have any doubts and wish to start a discussion.
Faizan Fahim is a B2B content marketer who likes to write about WordPress, Cloud Native technologies, and SaaS products. Besides professional writing, he enjoys reading and runs a book blog. You can connect with him through LinkedIn.
Why does WordPress use MySQL
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