Why so few developers are using Firebird SQL?

Recently I started a new project in which I need to choose another database besides MySQL. Since then, I had been using MySQL for basically everything, but given the MySQL licensing scheme and a few restrictions of the project itself, this time I had to use something else. So I choose Firebird SQL.

But there’s something about Firebird that always bothered me: why so few developers actually know and use Firebird? Basically (at least here in Brazil) I only see it being used among Delphi developers. Why isn’t it as popular as MySQL or PostgreSQL? Given its features (listed below), can we say that the project lives an unfair situation?

Firebird have several features which makes it a great choice:

  • Really free:: contraty to MySQL, you can use Firebird in your commercial applications without any fee or legal problem. (BTW: I know that PostgreSQL have this advantage too)
  • All the basic features of large RDBMS:: stored procedures, triggers, A.C.I.D. compliance, online backup, generators, referential integrity, etc…
  • Small footprint: had you seen its embeddable version? Just amazing: in less then 1 Mb you have all the features of the default one without cutting anything!
  • Low hardware requirements: basically, if something computes, it can run Firebird.
  • Available in all the major OS platforms: Linux, Windows, Mac OS, Solaris and others
  • Reasonable performance: Firebird performance remains between MySQL and PostgreSQL.
  • Really active project: despite its low popularity, it’s a quite active project. In april/2009, for example, was announced the 2.5 beta version of the project.
  • Databases with unlimited size: the database size limit is determined by the filesystem in which the database is stored. But, if your database exceed its limit its always possible to split it in several files.
    (the largest database known have 960 Gb link)
  • 100% SQL 92 compability
  • Connectivity: basically you can access a Firebird SQL through any programming language

My experience with Flamerobin is being really pleasant, but it’s really sad to see that since I wrote my Microsoft Access to Firebird database converter (MDB2FDB http://www.firebase.com.br/fb/downloads.php?categ=8) in 2006 that the Firebird popularity hadn’t changed at all!

Since I really like this software, and I think that its current popularity situation is unfair, maybe it could be interesting to list some actions that may help this project. So, here is my list:

Of course, I couldn’t finish this post without guessing (just guesses) the reasons why Firebird SQL is so unpopular if compared to MySQL or PostgreSQL:

  • There’s no big player like Sun/Oracle or IBM supporting it right now.
  • The official website is terrible (http://www.firebirdsql.org). Seems futile, but the first impression of the project is horrible. Makes you think it’s stalled.
    Firebird’s biggest sponsor today is IBPhoenix , which main business IS Firebird. But even it’s website falls in the same problem.
  • The fact of being Delphi related since it’s begning. With Delphi’s decadence, its popularity just floundered with it.
  • Poor documentation

Maybe things may change to Firebird SQL after Oracle bought Sun (many MySQL users are getting scared (I see no reason for this by the way)) and may play with Firebird, but it’s something improbable to happen. :)

Of course, these are just my opinions about it. I really whould like to know yours. Why do you think so few developers are using Firebird today?

98 thoughts on “Why so few developers are using Firebird SQL?

  1. Firebird is a very good database.

    However, it does not look good when such basic feature requests as DROP TABLE CASCADE exists without any movement for 8 years:

    http://tracker.firebirdsql.org/browse/CORE-695?page=com.atlassian.jira.plugin.system.issuetabpanels%3Acomment-tabpanel

    And I concur with those who commented on the lack of documentation and the really poor web site, with lousy content search features, which leaves a bad impression no matter how good the database is. Simply having a “documents” page with links is not good enough. If someone can not find how to do something in Firebird quickly in docs available at the web site with a search function (much like you can with Postgresql), they will simply move to another database that does provide such online help. Also, allowing users to comment within the documents online again like at http://www.postgresql.org is brilliant and allows the community to help each other.

    Responda

    David Reply:

    It’s a pity your comments are still active.
    I have come across this blog in my search for an open rdbms and having read your comments, very nearly disregarded
    FirebirdSql. However I’m glad that i visited the site and
    continued my research.
    i do appreciate your post us dated 2010 but having read through the Quick Start Guide I found it very easy to read. (even whilst driving!)
    I have now decided to install Fdb instead of MySql.

    Responda

  2. Hi,
    I am useing firebird since 2003.
    Firebird is very fast, real free, cross platform and very very strong database server. You can trust it for sql working.
    if you are asking why peoples not use firebird. I can give answer. So
    1- For example change your SYSDBA password ‘dbpasword’ if you copy your db from diffrent machine your password is change otomaticly ‘masyerkey’ . Who can use it on the web? There is no data security.
    2- Documantation is very important for databases. And firebird have very poor documantion. Education is too important. If you want to use other db you can find pdf, videos. But If you use firebird you can find only forums pages..

    Responda

  3. I have used Firebird since it was Interbase…

    I now use version 2.1 and it is a great database. I have never had any problems with it in 10 years of use on commercial web sites. It works (fast) out of the box and needs NO configuration.

    BUT

    I cannot get it to work with Spring and that is a REAL problem.

    I have three databases that have one table in MySQL 5, Postgres 9 and Firebird 2.1. To swap databases, all I have to change are jdbc.properties and the dependency in pom.xml for the relevant .jar.

    It works for MySQL and Postgres but NOT for Firebird.

    I know the connection parameters in jbdc.properties are correct as I have used them in a small Java command program.

    I just get this on any database access:

    org.springframework.jdbc.CannotGetJdbcConnectionException: Could not get JDBC Connection; nested exception is org.apache.commons.dbcp.SQLNestedException: Cannot load JDBC driver class ‘org.firebirdsql.jdbc.FBDriver’, cause: javax/resource/ResourceException, cause: javax/resource/ResourceException
    org.springframework.jdbc.datasource.DataSourceUtils.getConnection(DataSourceUtils.java:80)
    org.springframework.jdbc.core.JdbcTemplate.execute(JdbcTemplate.java:572)

    Very strange but if I cannot get FB to work with Spring I will have to go with Postgres…

    Responda

    robert csakany Reply:

    I had the same problem, I debugged and I found the problem is the Firebird driver depends on j2e API, I add the following dependency to my project andd embedded in (osgi), I think you have the same problem with spring.
    I’ve added openEjb JAR to my bundle’s classpath and everything works fine.

    org.apache.openejb
    javaee-api
    5.0-3

    Responda

  4. I am using Firebird from the past 10 years. I am very pleasant with it. It is very robust and we have not had any problem in more than 1000 installations of our product.
    I agree that a big problem is the lack of documentation. There is there, but it is spreadout, among several webs, it is really a mess. Also, the Firebird webs do not help too much. They seems non professional, from my point of view, they are ugly and do not transmit trust.
    In any case, as I have said, I am really happy with the Firebird results. It is excellent database server and you will not have problems.

    Responda

  5. I gave my answers with ED in front
    Also added the response on firebirdnews http://www.firebirdnews.org/?p=5548

    1.There’s no big player like Sun/Oracle or IBM supporting it right now.

    ED: Not an issue: there is no need for the big Oracle look what they have done to MySQL , they killed it

    2.The official website is terrible (http://www.firebirdsql.org). Seems futile, but the first impression of the project is horrible. Makes you think it’s stalled.

    ED:This is worked as we speak check it and send us feedback http://www.firebirdtest.com

    3.Firebird’s biggest sponsor today is IBPhoenix , which main business IS Firebird. But even it’s website falls in the same problem.

    ED fixed :Site look and feel is updated

    4.The fact of being Delphi related since it’s begning. With Delphi’s decadence, its popularity just floundered with it.

    ED : That is solved we do have support for all the other new players : nodejs,rails , django , lua … And Lazarus apps are still the fastest one in benchmarks vs Java, .net …

    5.Poor documentation

    ED:Soon to be fixed , but more hands are needed , it’s easy to complain , please help to update and fix the bugs in the docs area

    Maybe things may change to Firebird SQL after Oracle bought Sun (many MySQL users are getting scared (I see no reason for this by the way)) and may play with Firebird, but it’s something improbable to happen.

    ED:Wind of change : i get more hits on my blog with things like phpbb3 installations , rails installations … and the traffic for Fibirebirdsql.org and firebirdnews.org is going up , also on the linux distro land and bsd side we are going well : packaged and ready to replace LAMP with FLAPS , firebird php driver is included in default php install on Windows

    Responda

  6. Hi all,

    We are using Firebird for last 5 years . We are very much satisfied with it. We are using MySQL also . But I love firebird much.

    Responda

  7. I have also been using Firebird since it was Interbase. Besides all the reason expossed regarding poor documentation and others, I think the most important is the one from John Senior: it is really complicated to find a web hosting that supports Firebird other than using a VPS.

    I hope this will change with FLAPS, but it is a major challenge that main web hosting providers sponsor it.

    Responda

  8. We use firebird since version 1.5 (currently using 2.5 64 bit) for client/server commercial applications and it is a bullet proof engine, reliable and easy to develop on. The documentation is not it’s main strength however since it is fully sql 92 compliant we never got stuck with it. We love it and will stick with it: powerful, cross platform, free, configurable, open source… Who cares if the web site looks old or if the documentation is not that flash? This is a database engine that delivers from the embedded version to the corporate/multi-user environment. Long live Firebird!

    Responda

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