A petition launched in December by MySQL creator Michael ‘Monty’ Widenius to “save” the open-source database from Oracle has quickly gained momentum, collecting nearly 17,000 signatures.


Widenius on Monday submitted an initial batch of 14,174 signatures to the European Commission, which is conducting an antitrust review of Oracle’s acquisition of Sun Microsystems, MySQL’s current owner. European authorities had expressed concern over the future of MySQL under Oracle, which holds a major chunk of the database market with its own proprietary software.


The petition calls for authorities to block the merger unless Oracle agrees to one of three “solutions,” including spinning off MySQL to a third party and releasing all past versions and subsequent editions for the next three years under the Apache 2.0 open-source license.


About 5,500 of the signatories on the initial submission list are identified as self-employed software developers. Another 3,155 work for companies that use MySQL. The remaining are listed as “private users” of the database or are “concerned about MySQL’s future for some other reason.”


Nearly 7,000 respondents are from European Union member states, followed by about 3,300 in the U.S. and 2,800 in the rest of the world.


As of Monday, almost 94 percent supported the notion of Oracle divesting MySQL.


“Countless blogs, websites, encyclopedias are based on MySQL. It is the engine of the internet community, and with it one of the pillars of modern society, the support for freedom of speech,” one signatory from Austria wrote. “I do not believe in big companies’ promises to have an eye on the community – there’s just too much money involved!”


“MySQL powers the majority of innovative database deployments. It’s open nature allows for high-level modification enabling sites like Facebook to harden it for high demand/minimal hardware configurations,” a U.S. signatory said. “Oracle is the least likely candidate for a guardian of this technology, it would be like giving the keys to heaven to the devil for safekeeping.”


While Oracle has released a statement containing 10 commitments to MySQL users, including a promise to invest more money in development, Widenius maintains those pledges don’t go far enough.


But European authorities responded favorably to Oracle’s overture, and the merger could be approved imminently.


Despite the apparent success of Widenius’ signature drive, other observers have said concerns over MySQL’s fate are overblown, since the databases don’t directly compete and MySQL can survive through offshoot “forks” like Widenius’ own MariaDB.


To that end, Widenius himself has drawn fire from some critics, who consider his motives self-serving.


He may be hoping to “pinch Oracle’s improved code and basically have his MySQL money and access to the MySQL code as it improves so he can plug it into his branch,” user “thetoadwarrior” posted on a Slashdot thread in December. “No one should take his opinion seriously because if he really cared then it wouldn’t have sold it.”


But forking a project like MySQL is easier said than done, Widenius said in a blog post on Dec. 28.


“There is very little chance that a fork can get enough money to do the needed development when there are very few companies that can use the fork to generate direct revenue,” he wrote. “There are also very few investors that are prepared to put money into a product with no sure income stream and a model that is only based on services.”


In addition, a fork “can’t be used with other products that are using MySQL as a building block for their closed source applications,” Widenius said.


The company Widenius formed around MariaDB, Monty Program, focuses on new database features and support for companies that use MariaDB.


Forking MySQL has not been easy, according to Widenius.


“I have the best possible team working on MariaDB, still it has taken us 9 months to do some small required changes and create an infrastructure to be able to do our first release,” he wrote. “We are spending 100,000 Euros/months just to keep MySQL alive (as MariaDB) and there are no sure signs we will ever be able to get that money back. Fortunately we have enough funding so we can continue some years with doing this. This is however not sustainable forever.”


Monty Program wouldn’t benefit greatly from the proposals in the petition, Widenius said. For one, if MySQL was divested to a “strong player” that was committed to its further development, Monty Program would gain a strong competitor, he said.


The company doesn’t expect to make much money, Widenius said. “It’s more important for us that MySQL will continue to be free, available for all, and developed in a way that meets the needs of all major market segments.”


An Oracle spokeswoman declined comment.

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