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:
- Just use Firebird: really! Just give it a try. You’ll get amazed by the amount of functionality can fit in it’s small footprint.
- You may donate some money for the projec too:
- May also be a sponsor:
- If you miss some tool for it, you may build your own and then share it with others, just as I did with my MDB2FDB converter.
- Write anything about it.
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?