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Monty Will Fight to the Bitter End

With a headline that claims you can "Help keep the Internet free," MySQL creator Monty Widenius sprung into action once again on his blog to rally the troops against Oracle's expected acquisition of Sun and MySQL.  Nearly two weeks after the Oracle president, Safra Catz, said the Sun deal would be cleared "unconditionally" by the EU, Widenius still believes there is a chance to save MySQL from Oracle.  Widenius is now launching an international campaign to try and mobilize regulators from all parts of the globe.

The petition will be available right up to the January 27 deadline, when the European Commission makes its decision on the Oracle-Sun deal.  27 national antitrust authorities within the EU will receive the petition along with other unnamed regulators outside of the EU.  Florian Mueller, a supporter of Widenius, believes that countries such as South Africa, Russia, and China could put up additional roadblocks for the deal.  Here are the proposed solutions on the petition:

  • MySQL must be divested to a suitable third party that can continue to develop it under the GPL.
  • Oracle must commit to a linking exception for applications that use MySQL with the client libraries (for all programming languages), for plugins and libmysqld. MySQL itself remains licensed under the GPL.
  • Oracle must release all past and future versions of MySQL (until December 2012) under the Apache Software License 2.0 or similar permissive license so that developers of applications and derived versions (forks) have flexibility concerning the code.
                                                                                  Petition Headline

                           

The explanation behind the Widenius' blog headline comes from LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP/Perl/Python) being a large portion of the Internet, he says.  If Oracle acquired MySQL under the current deal, Widenius says it would have as much control over an open source project as money can possibly buy.  "In fact," he says, "for most open source projects (such as Linux or Apache) there isn't any comparable way for a competitor to buy even one tenth as much influence."  The petition site says, "Oracle owning MySQL would be worse than the proverbial fox in the henhouse."  Oracle would never seriously improve MySQL in ways that would hurt their own database business, or aggressively promote MySQL as an "alternative for (not all, but ever more) database purposes for which Oracle is traditionally used," the site says. 

The petition site labels Oracle as "MySQL's primary competitor."  In many market segments, Widenius says, Oracle would have a near-monopoly position if it acquired MySQL.  He explains that some large companies have switched from Oracle databases to MySQL in the past.  Companies have the ability to credibly walk away from Oracle products if they don't like the prices, but not without an independent MySQL, Widenius says.  Calling Oracle's statement of commitments a bunch of “empty promises,” Widenius believes that if the 3-5 year commitments were carried out, it still wouldn't be enough.

It's true that Oracle can't change the license for old versions of MySQL.  However, what they can change is the license for all new code.  Oracle could conceivably  put the majority of new MySQL development under a closed source license. Widenius said, "Over time the MySQL GPL code from Oracle will be as usable as Betamax video cassettes."  It's possible for third parties to make a copy of MySQL and start developing it, but Widenius says the economic ecosystem around it can't be forked.  Some say the community will take care of it, but it's not easy, Widenius says - "I have the best possible team working on MariaDB, still it has taken us 9 months to do some small required changes."  Widenius has been relatively consistent in his stance on MySQL, despite the critics who point to his startup, Monty Program Ab , as the primary motivation behind his campaign.  Widenius says that those allegations are wrong and that he is not making much money off of his Maria DB fork of MySQL.  Back when Sun acquired MySQL, Widenius was still concerned with database competition, but he was ok with the Sun takeover because, "Sun doesn't have a database of their own; In other words, no risk of internal conflicts between similar products."

Widenius plans to start sending the petition to “regulators, governmental bodies, parliaments and journalists” on January 4, and he has vowed to continue his fight with Oracle until "the very end of the process."  The petition currently has over 200 signatures in the last 24 hours.
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