What are you building?

A project, a product, or a brand?

Actually, luck has played a big role in our industry, and sometimes you don’t know what you’re building until later. I could have called this post “What’s in a name?” or “Why I have to work around MySQL performance bugs when there’s at least one technically superior and totally free database we could have used instead.”

This is a story of well-meaning people who made what seemed like reasonable choices at the time, some of which have caused mild suffering. They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

So what’s in a name? In the 1980’s if you’re a geeky professor creating a project to replace the “Ingres” database project, “Postgres” sounds like a pretty clever name. If SQL becomes a popular standard and is now supported, changing “Postgres” to “PostgreSQL” also seems pretty sensible. There’s continuity. The handful of students who used it at the time were not confused at all. But even for them it might have been better to choose the name of a painter more recent than Ingres (DegaSQL, MatisSQL, PicasSQL, KandinSQL, MonetSQL, RenoirDB, SeuratSQL, DaliBase?).

Then there’s MySQL. Sigh. Maybe we’re all shallow, narcissistic people at heart, or maybe we all just follow the orders of people who are, but “MySQL” is a near-perfect brand name because it’s all about “me“, and it’s “mine”. No need to explain what’s up with the name. Sold. Add to that a focus on the needs of ISP’s and Linux users, and it becomes second only to Oracle in popularity. PostgreSQL is in 4th place now, but the usage scores drop off a cliff after 3rd place (which is Microsoft SQL Server).

It turns out, though, that the brilliant name choice of “MySQL” was just as random as the awful name chosen for its competitor. “Monty” Widenus named MySQL after his first daughter, My. By the way, more-actively-maintained-and-improved fork of MySQL, languishing in 20th place in usage rankings, is MariaDB, named after his second daughter. If he’d had only one daughter, named Ingrid instead of My, the fork might have been called “PostgridSQL”.

So, do I have a point? Just that you might want to think when you create something about who it’s for and to think, when naming or re-branding it, about how people who are not currently “in the loop” will perceive it. Also, if your technology is really solid and well-designed, please be lucky.

For info, recent database usage rankings from db-engines.com:

1. Oracle Relational DBMS 1449.25
2. MySQL  Relational DBMS 1370.13
3. Microsoft SQL Server Relational DBMS 1165.81
4. MongoDB  Document store 314.62
5. PostgreSQL Relational DBMS 306.60
6. DB2 Relational DBMS 188.57
7. Cassandra  Wide column store 131.12
8. Microsoft Access Relational DBMS 126.22
9. SQLite Relational DBMS 106.78
10. Redis  Key-value store 104.49
11. Elasticsearch  Search engine 87.41
20. MariaDB Relational DBMS 34.66

 

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