MariaDB & Trademarks, and advice for your project

I want to emphasize this for those who have not spent time near trademarks: trademarks are trouble and another one of those things where no matter what, the lawyers always win. If you are starting a company or an open source project, you are going to have to spend a whole bunch of time with lawyers on trademarks or you are going to get properly, properly screwed.

MySQL AB always held the trademark for MySQL. There’s this strange thing with trademarks and free software, where while you can easily say “use and modify this code however you want” and retain copyright on it (for, say, selling your own version of it), this does not translate too well to trademarks as there’s a whole “if you don’t defend it, you lose it” thing.

The law, is, in effect, telling you that at some point you have to be an arsehole to not lose your trademark. (You can be various degrees of arsehole about it when you have to, and whenever you do, you should assume that people are acting in good faith and just have not spent the last 40,000 years of their life talking to trademark lawyers like you have).Basically, you get to spend time telling people that they have to rename their product from “MySQL Headbut” to “Headbut for MySQL” and that this is, in fact, a really important difference.

You also, at some point, get to spend a lot of time talking about when the modifications made by a Linux distribution to package your software constitute sufficient changes that it shouldn’t be using your trademark (basically so that you’re never stuck if some arse comes along, forks it, makes it awful and keeps using your name, to the detriment of your project and business).

If you’re wondering why Firefox isn’t called Firefox in Debian, you can read the Mozilla trademark policy and probably some giant thread on debian-legal I won’t point to.

Of course, there’s ‘ MySQL trademark policy and when I was at Percona, I spent some non-trivial amount of time attempting to ensure we had a trademark policy that would work from a legal angle, a corporate angle, and a get-our-software-into-linux-distros-happily angle.

So, back in 2010, Monty started talking about a draft MariaDB trademark policy (see also, Ubuntu trademark policy, WordPress trademark policy). If you are aiming to create a development community around an open source project, this is something you need to get right. There is a big difference between contributing to a corporate open source product and an open source project – both for individuals and corporations. If you are going to spend some of your spare time contributing to something, the motivation goes down when somebody else is going to directly profit off it (corporate project) versus a community of contributors and companies who will all profit off it (open source project). The most successful hybrid of these two is likely Ubuntu, and I am struggling to think of another (maybe Fedora?).

Linux is an open source project, RedHat Enterprise Linux is an open source product and in case it wasn’t obvious when OpenSolaris was no longer Open, OpenSolaris was an open source product (and some open source projects have sprung up around the code base, which is great to see!). When a corporation controls the destiny of the name and the entire source code and project infrastructure – it’s a product of that corporation, it’s not a community around a project.

From the start, it seemed that one of the purposes of MariaDB was to create a developer community around a database server that was compatible with MySQL, and eventually, to replace it. MySQL AB was not very good at having an external developer community, it was very much an open source product and not a an open source project (one of the downsides to hiring just about anyone who ever submitted a patch). Things struggled further at Sun and (I think) have actually gotten better for MySQL at Oracle – not perfect, I could pick holes in it all day if I wanted, but certainly better.

When we were doing Drizzle, we were really careful about making sure there was a development community. Ultimately, with Drizzle we made a different fatal error, and one that we knew had happened to another open source project and nearly killed it: all the key developers went to work for a single company. Looking back, this is easily my biggest professional regret and one day I’ll talk about it more.

Brian Aker observed (way back in 2010) that MariaDB was, essentially, just Monty Program. In 2013, I did my own analysis on the source tree of MariaDB 5.5.31 and MariaDB 10.0.3-ish to see if indeed there was a development community (tl;dr; there wasn’t, and I had the numbers to prove it).If you look back at the idea of the Open Database Alliance and the MariaDB Foundation, actually, I’m just going to quote Henrik here from his blog post about leaving MariaDB/Monty Program:

When I joined the company over a year ago I was immediately involved in drafting a project plan for the Open Database Alliance and its relation to MariaDB. We wanted to imitate the model of the Linux Foundation and Linux project, where the MariaDB project would be hosted by a non-profit organization where multiple vendors would collaborate and contribute. We wanted MariaDB to be a true community project, like most successful open source projects are – such as all other parts of the LAMP stack.


The reality today, confirmed to me during last week, is that:

Those in charge at Monty Program have decided to keep ownership of the MariaDB trademark, logo and domain, since this will make the company more valuable to investors and eventually to potential buyers.

Now, with Monty Program being sold to/merged into (I’m really not sure) SkySQL, it was SkySQL who had those things. So instead of having Monty Program being (at least in theory) one of the companies working on MariaDB and following the Hacker Business Model, you now have a single corporation with all the developers, all of the trademarks, that is, essentially a startup with VC looking to be valuable to potential buyers (whatever their motives).

Again, I’m going to just quote Henrik on the us-vs-them on community here:

Some may already have observed that the 5.2 release was not announced at all on, rather on the Monty Program blog. It is even intact with the “us vs them” attitude also MySQL AB had of its community, where the company is one entity and “outside community contributors” is another. This is repeated in other communication, such as the recent Recently in MariaDB newsletter.

This was, again, back in 2010.

More recently, Jeremy Cole, someone who has pumped a fair bit of personal and professional effort into MySQL and MariaDB over the past (many) years, asked what seemed to be a really simple question on the maria-discuss mailing list. Basically, “What’s going on with the MariaDB trademark? Isn’t this something that should be under the MariaDB foundation?”

The subsequent email thread was as confusing as ever and should be held up as a perfect example about what not to do. Some of us had by now, for years, smelt something fishy going on around the talk of a community project versus the reality. At the time (October 2013), Rasmus Johansson (VP of Engineering at SkySQL and Board Member of MariaDB foundation) said this:

The MariaDB Foundation and SkySQL are currently working on the trademark issue to come up with a solution on what rights to the trademark each entity should have. Expect to hear more about this in a fairly near future.


MariaDB has from its beginning been a very community friendly project and much of the success of MariaDB relies in that fact. SkySQL of course respects that.

(and at the same time, there were pages that were “Copyright MariaDB” which, as it was pointed out, was not an actual entity… so somebody just wasn’t paying attention). Also, just to make things even less clear about where SkySQL the corporation, Monty Program the corporation and the MariaDB Foundation all fit together, Mark Callaghan noticed this text up on

The MariaDB Foundation also holds the trademark of the MariaDB server and owns This ensures that the official MariaDB development tree<> will always be open for the MariaDB developer community.

So…. there’s no actual clarity here. I can imagine attempting to get involved with MariaDB inside a corporation and spending literally weeks talking to a legal department – which thrills significantly less than standing in lines at security in an airport does.

So, if you started off as yay! MariaDB is going to be a developer community around an open source project that’s all about participation, you may have even gotten code into MariaDB at various times… and then started to notice a bit of a shift… there may have been some intent to make that happen, to correct what some saw as some of the failings of MySQL, but the reality has shown something different.

Most recently, SkySQL has renamed themselves to MariaDB. Good luck to anyone who isn’t directly involved with the legal processes around all this differentiating between MariaDB the project, MariaDB Foundation and MariaDB the company and who owns what. Urgh. This is, in no way, like the Linux Foundation and Linux.

Personally, I prefer to spend my personal time contributing to open source projects rather than products. I have spent the vast majority of my professional life closer to the corporate side of open source, some of which you could better describe as closer to the open source product end of the spectrum. I think it is completely and totally valid to produce an open source product. Making successful companies, products and a butt-ton of money from open source software is an absolutely awesome thing to do and I, personally, have benefited greatly from it.

MariaDB is a corporate open source product. It is no different to Oracle MySQL in that way. Oracle has been up front and honest about it the entire time MySQL has been part of Oracle, everybody knew where they stood (even if you sometimes didn’t like it). The whole MariaDB/Monty Program/SkySQL/MariaDB Foundation/Open Database Alliance/MariaDB Corporation thing has left me with a really bitter taste in my mouth – where the opportunity to create a foundation around a true community project with successful business based on it has been completely squandered and mismanaged.

I’d much rather deal with those who are honest and true about their intentions than those who aren’t.

My guess is that this factored heavily into Henrik’s decision to leave in 2010 and (more recently) Simon Phipps’s decision to leave in August of this year. These are two people who I both highly respect, never have enough time to hang out with and I would completely trust to do the right thing and be honest when running anything in relation to free and open source software.

Maybe WebScaleSQL will succeed here – it’s a community with a purpose and several corporate contributors. A branch rather than a fork may be the best way to do this (Percona is rather successful with their branch too).

Who works on MariaDB and MySQL?

Looking at the committers/authors of patches in the bzr tree for MariaDB 5.5.31.

Non Oracle Contributors:

  1. Alexander Barkov
  2. Alexey Botchkov
  3. Elena Stepanova
  4. Igor Babaev
  5. knielsen
  6. Michael Widenius
  7. sanja
  8. Sergei Golubchik
  9. Sergey Petrunya
  10. timour
  11. Vladislav Vaintroub

Oracle (as they pull Oracle changes):

  1. Aditya A
  2. Akhila Maddukuri
  3. Alexander Nozdrin
  4. Anirudh Mangipudi
  5. Annamalai Gurusami
  6. Astha Pareek
  7. Balasubramanian Kandasamy
  8. Chaithra Gopalareddy
  9. Daniel Fischer
  10. Gleb Shchepa
  11. Harin Vadodaria
  12. Hery Ramilison
  13. Igor Solodovnikov
  14. Inaam Rana
  15. Jon Olav Hauglid
  16. kevin.lewis
  17. Krunal Bauskar
  18. Marc Alff
  19. Marko Mäkelä
  20. Mattias Jonsson
  21. Murthy Narkedimilli
  22. Neeraj Bisht
  23. Nisha Gopalakrishnan
  24. Nuno Carvalho
  25. Olav Sandstaa
  26. Pedro Gomes
  27. prabakaran thirumalai
  28. Praveenkumar Hulakund
  29. Ravinder Thakur
  30. Satya Bodapati
  31. sayantan.dutta
  32. Shivji Kumar Jha
  33. Sujatha Sivakumar
  34. Sunanda Menon
  35. Sunny Bains
  36. Thayumanavar
  37. Tor Didriksen
  38. Venkata Sidagam
  39. Venkatesh Duggirala
  40. Yasufumi Kinoshita


  1. All the non-Oracle contributors work for SkySQL (and worked for Monty Program before that)
  2. Even when you go back to MariaDB 5.5.23 I can only find evidence for a maximum of 2-3 external contributions of code to MariaDB since then.
  3. In the same time frame (5.5.23-5.5.32) I see 1 or 2 going into Oracle trees, so it’s roughly the same.
  4. If you look at the contributors from Oracle over 5.5.23 to 5.5.32 there are closer to twice as many as the 40 listed above.

Somebody please correct me if I’m wrong here… perhaps MariaDB guys are just really bad at clearly marking commits that come from elsewhere? I’ve looked for “patch.*by”, “original” and “ontributed” and only turned up the above.

What was InnoDB+?

Yes, I said InnoDB+ with a plus sign at the end (also see the first comment here).

Please note that this blog post is only based on public information. It has absolutely nothing in it that I only could have learned from back when I worked at Sun or MySQL AB. Everything has links or pointers to where you can find the information out on the Internet and all thoughts are based on stringing these things together.

There was a lot of talk around the acquisition of Sun Microsystems by Oracle about MySQL (MySQL AB was bought by Sun). Some of the talk centred around Oracle and their ability to make a closed source version of MySQL with added bits that wouldn’t be released as GPL. They’ve since proved that they’re quite willing to do this to an open source project (see OpenSolaris).

Relatively recently, a bunch of history from the old InnoDB SVN trees was imported into the MySQL source tree. You can pull the revision of the SVN tree as of InnoDB Plugin 1.0.6 release by using revid:svn-v4:16c675df-0fcb-4bc9-8058-dcc011a37293:branches/zip:6263  from the MySQL repository – or just use a branch I’ve put up on launchpad for it (lp:~stewart/haildb/innodb-1.0.6-from-svn).

The first revision from the SVN tree was created on 2005-10-27, which you may remember was not too long after Oracle acquired Innobase on the 7th of October that year. The next two revisions were importing the 5.0 innodb code base, and then the 5.1 code base. Previous history can be found according to this blog post on Transactions on InnoDB.

According to Monty in the comment on the Pythian blog:

Oracle did work on a closed source version of InnoDB, codename InnoDB+, but they never released it, probably because our contract with them stopped them.

and from Eben Moglen’s letter to the EU Commission (via Baron Schwartz’s blog post):

Innobase could therefore have provided an enhanced version of InnoDB, like Oracle’s current InnoDB+, under non-GPL license

Most tellingly is a lot of references in the revision history to “branches/innodb+” as well as this commit:

revno: 0.5.148
revision-id: svn-v4:16c675df-0fcb-4bc9-8058-dcc011a37293:branches/innodb%2B:6329
parent: svn-v4:16c675df-0fcb-4bc9-8058-dcc011a37293:branches/innodb%2B:6322
committer: vasil
timestamp: Thu 2009-12-17 11:00:17 +0000
branches/innodb+: change name and version
Change name from “InnoDB Plugin” to “InnoDB+” and
version from 1.0.5 to 1.0.0.

So, from the revision history I’ve managed to work out that it likely was going to have the following features:

  • innodb_change_buffering (for values other than inserts)
    See revid:svn-v4:16c675df-0fcb-4bc9-8058-dcc011a37293:branches/zip:4061
    Or, more tellingly revid:svn-v4:16c675df-0fcb-4bc9-8058-dcc011a37293:branches/innodb%2B:4053
    The latter tells about the merge of change buffering for delete-mark and delete in addition to the default of inserts.
  • Possibly compressed tables.
    revid:svn-v4:16c675df-0fcb-4bc9-8058-dcc011a37293:branches/innodb%2B:2316 seems to show that it may have been copied across: “branches/innodb+: Copy from branches/zip r2315” in the comment.  There’s a lot of other merges of branches/zip as well
  • Something named FTS
    There is “branches/fts” in revid:svn-v4:16c675df-0fcb-4bc9-8058-dcc011a37293:branches/innodb%2B:2325 and revid:svn-v4:16c675df-0fcb-4bc9-8058-dcc011a37293:branches/innodb%2B:2324  (there’s an import of a red-black tree implementation)
    If you also look at revid: svn-v4:16c675df-0fcb-4bc9-8058-dcc011a37293:branches/innodb%2B:6776
    you’ll see references to a innofts+ branch with in it.
    So between a red-black tree and handler changes, this is surely something interesting.
  • Persistent statistics (also revid: svn-v4:16c675df-0fcb-4bc9-8058-dcc011a37293:branches/innodb%2B:6776)
  • Metrics Table (also revid: svn-v4:16c675df-0fcb-4bc9-8058-dcc011a37293:branches/innodb%2B:6776)
  • posix_fadvise() hints to temp files used in creating indexes (revid:svn-v4:16c675df-0fcb-4bc9-8058-dcc011a37293:branches/innodb%2B:2342 )
  • Improved recovery performance
    See revid:svn-v4:16c675df-0fcb-4bc9-8058-dcc011a37293:branches/innodb%2B:2989
    Talks about using the red-black tree for sorted insertion into the flush_list
  • native linux aio (revid:svn-v4:16c675df-0fcb-4bc9-8058-dcc011a37293:branches/innodb%2B:3913 )
  • group commit (revid:svn-v4:16c675df-0fcb-4bc9-8058-dcc011a37293:branches/innodb%2B:3923 )
  • New mutex to protect flush_list (revid:svn-v4:16c675df-0fcb-4bc9-8058-dcc011a37293:branches/innodb%2B:6330)

and finally, in revid:svn-v4:16c675df-0fcb-4bc9-8058-dcc011a37293:branches/innodb%2B:6819 you can see the change from “InnoDB+” back to “InnoDB” for being the built in default for MySQL 5.5

Continuing the journey

A couple of months ago (December 1st for those playing along at home) it marked five years to the day that I started at MySQL AB (now Sun, now Oracle). A good part of me is really surprised it was for that long and other parts surprised it wasn’t longer. Through MySQL and Sun, I met some pretty amazing people, worked with some really smart ones and formed really solid and awesome friendships. Of course, not everything was perfect (sometimes not even close), but we did have some fun.

Up until November 2008 (that’s 3 years and 11 months for those playing at home) I worked on MySQL Cluster. Still love the product and love how much better we’re making Drizzle so it’ll be the best SQL interface to NDB :)

The ideas behind Drizzle had been talked about for a while… and with my experience with internals of the MySQL server, I thought that some change and dramatic improvement was sorely needed.

Then, in 2008, Brian created a tree. I was soon sending in patches at nights, we announced to the whole world at OSCON and it captured a lot of attention.

Since November 2008 I’ve been working on Drizzle full time. It was absolutely awesome that I had the opportunity to spend all my days hacking on Drizzle – both directly with fantastic people and for fantastic people.

But… the Sun set… which was exciting and sad at the same time.

Never to fear! There were plenty of places wanting Drizzle hackers (and MySQL hackers). For me, it came down to this: “real artists ship”. While there were other places where I would no doubt be happy and work on something really cool, the only way I could end up working out where I should really be was: what is the best way to have Drizzle make a stable release that we’d see be suitable for deployment? So, Where Am I Now?


Where I’ll again be spending all my time hacking Drizzle.