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Sagar Bhatia | 01 Jun, 2023
Robert Johns | Co-author

PostgreSQL vs MySQL | Which RDBMS Is Best? (2024)

Key Points:

  • MySQL and PostgreSQL are two powerful RDMBS that power major applications, websites, and enterprises like Facebook, Netflix, Reddit, and YouTube.
  • Despite major differences, MySQL and PostgreSQL both offer robust features for data storage, retrieval, and manipulation, not to mention vibrant and supportive communities.
  • MySQL is favored for simplicity and performance, while PostgreSQL is favored for advanced features, data integrity, and security.

In the realm of open-source relational database management systems (RDBMS), two heavyweight contenders have long competed to hold the spotlight. Of course, we’re talking about the face-off of MySQL vs PostgreSQL.

As the backbone of countless applications, websites, and enterprises worldwide, these RDBMS have proven their mettle in handling sizable amounts of data with speed, reliability, and robustness. MySQL has even managed to leapfrog Microsoft SQL server as one of the top 2 RDBMS options in 2024.

Yet beneath the surface lies distinctive features, performance characteristics, and philosophies that set them apart. In this article, we’ll explore and compare MySQL and PostgreSQL by diving into their core functionalities, extensibility, scalability, community support, and more.

So, whether you're a MySQL aficionado seeking to explore the competition or a PostgreSQL devotee that’s curious about MySQL's allure, join us as we unravel the intricacies of these RDBMS titans as we aim to shed light on the MySQL vs PostgreSQL debate.

If you’re brand new to the world of RDBMS, we’d highly recommend learning SQL basics for MySQL. This is a great way to develop foundational knowledge, which can also help you to weigh up PostgreSQL vs MySQL for future projects.

PostgreSQL vs MySQL: Head-to-Head Comparison

If you’ve spent any time in the world of databases, you’ll know there are many opinions and many debates, like what’s the difference between SQL and MySQL, or, as we’ll be focusing on here, PostgreSQL vs MySQL, which is better?

As two of the most popular open-source RDBMS, MySQL and PostgreSQL have a lot in common and a lot that sets them apart. Let’s take a look at a head-to-head that considers MySQL vs PostgreSQL performance in multiple areas.

Features

PostgreSQL

MySQL

License

PostgreSQL License

GNU GPL or proprietary

Data Types

Supports various numeric, date/time, text, and geometric data types. Also supports arrays, hstore, and JSONB. 

Standard data types include numeric, date/time, and text. Also supports spatial data types, but with limited functionality.

ACID Compliance

Fully compliant

Fully compliant with InnoDB

Replication

Supports both synchronous and asynchronous replication

Supports both synchronous and asynchronous replication

Concurrency

Supports multi-version concurrency control (MVCC)

Uses locking for concurrency control

Indexing

Supports B-tree and hash indexes, also GIN, GIST, and SP-GiST

Supports B-tree and hash indexes

Full-text Search

Built-in support

Supports full-text search via plugins

Spatial Data

Built-in support for spatial data and GIS functions

Supports spatial data via plugins

JSON Support

Supports JSON data type and provides built-in JSON functions

Supports JSON data type and provides basic JSON functions

SQL Compliance

Fully compliant with SQL standards, supports advanced SQL features such as CTEs and window functions

Supports basic SQL standards, lacks support for some advanced SQL features such as CTEs and window functions

Performance

Performs well with write-intensive applications

Performs well with read-intensive applications

Scalability

Well-suited to vertical scaling on a single server

Well-suited to horizontal scaling and distributed systems

Security

Strong built-in security features, including row-level security and SSL encryption

Extensive ecosystem of security plugins

Community

Large and active community with strong support and regular updates

Large and active community with strong support and regular updates

Cost

Free and open source

Free and open source with paid support options available

What is PostgreSQL?

PostgreSQL is a powerful open-source relational database management system (RDBMS) that has been around for over 20 years. Originally developed at the University of California, Berkeley, in July 1996, it’s now maintained by a global community of developers and the PostgreSQL Global Development Group (PGDG).

Known for reliability, scalability, and robustness, PostgreSQL is widely used by organizations of all sizes for managing large and complex databases. This makes it well-suited for high-performance and mission-critical applications such as data warehousing, analytics, geospatial applications, and web services. 

PostgreSQL offers a rich set of built-in data types along with powerful features for data indexing, searching, and retrieval, including full-text search and spatial data. It’s also ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability) compliant and supports synchronous and asynchronous replication.

PostgreSQL has strong security at the row level, along with SSL encryption and external authentication support. It also has excellent SQL compliance, including support for advanced SQL features like CTEs (Common Table Expression) and window functions.

Key Features of PostgreSQL

  • Advanced data types and processing: Rich set of built-in data types, including arrays, hstore, and JSONB, as well as numeric, date/time, text, and geometric data types.
  • ACID compliance: Ideal for applications requiring high data integrity and reliability.
  • Replication and high-availability: Supports synchronous and asynchronous replication, which is ideal for high-availability and disaster recovery solutions.
  • Security: Offers row-level security, SSL encryption, and external authentication support. 
  • SQL Compliance: Fully compliant with SQL standards, supporting advanced SQL features such as Common Table Expressions (CTEs) and window functions.
  • Scalability: Well-suited to vertical scaling, allowing it to scale well with large databases and high-traffic websites. 
  • Open-Source: Free and open-source software allowing anyone to download, use, and modify it without licensing fees.
  • Extensibility: The option to add user-defined functions (UDF), foreign data wrappers (FDW), and support for multiple procedural languages like Python, Perl, and more.

Pros and Cons of PostgreSQL

Pros

Cons

Extensibility: PostgreSQL allows users to define custom data types, functions, and use procedural languages

Complexity: PostgreSQL can be more complex to set up and administer than other database systems, requiring a deeper understanding of features and configuration options.

Advanced Features: PostgreSQL offers a wide range of advanced features, including complex data types, geospatial data, full-text search, and JSON operations.

Performance for Write-Intensive Workloads: PostgreSQL MVCC approach can impact performance with certain write-intensive scenarios, as it requires additional storage and processing.

Concurrency Control: PostgreSQL's Multi-Version Concurrency Control (MVCC) ensures efficient handling of concurrent transactions.

Learning Curve: Developers accustomed to other databases may face a learning curve when switching to PostgreSQL, as some concepts and syntax may be different.

SQL Compliance: PostgreSQL adheres closely to SQL standards, providing a comprehensive and robust implementation of SQL features.

Memory Usage: PostgreSQL's memory management can be more demanding compared to other databases, requiring careful configuration and monitoring to optimize performance.

Security: PostgreSQL prioritizes data security and offers role-based access control (RBAC), SSL encryption, row-level security, and auditing mechanisms.

Indexing Overhead: Creating and maintaining indexes in PostgreSQL can have more overhead than other databases, especially with frequent updates.

Community and Support: PostgreSQL has a vibrant and active community, offering extensive documentation, online resources, and strong community support.

Limited GUI Tools: PostgreSQL offers command-line tools and some GUI tools, but there is limited availability for user-friendly GUIs.

Data Integrity: PostgreSQL emphasizes data integrity, offering ACID compliance to ensure reliable and consistent data storage and transactional operations.

Slower Release Cycle: Compared to other databases, the release cycle of major versions in PostgreSQL can be longer, which may delay the availability of certain features.

Replication and High Availability: PostgreSQL provides various replication methods and high-availability solutions for data redundancy, fault tolerance, and scalability.

Replication Complexity: Setting up and managing replication in PostgreSQL can be more involved compared to other databases, requiring a deep understanding of replication methods.

Major Releases of PostgreSQL & Key Improvements

  • PostgreSQL 1.0 (1996): Initial release offering a robust and SQL-compliant RDBMS.
  • PostgreSQL 6.0 (1997): Introduced support for subqueries.
  • PostgreSQL 7.1 (2001): Support for procedural languages - PL/pgSQL, PL/Tcl, PL/Perl.
  • PostgreSQL 8.0 (2005): Table partitioning and point-in-time recovery (PITR).
  • PostgreSQL 8.3 (2008): Support for XML data types and advanced full-text search.
  • PostgreSQL 9.0 (2010): Improved replication, hot standby servers, & window functions.
  • PostgreSQL 9.1 (2011): Synchronous replication and increased parallelism.
  • PostgreSQL 9.2 (2012): Native support for JSON data types and indexing.
  • PostgreSQL 9.3 (2013): Materialized views and common table expressions (CTEs.
  • PostgreSQL 9.4 (2014): Logical decoding and improved parallel execution.
  • PostgreSQL 9.5 (2016): UPSERT functionality and support for row-level security.
  • PostgreSQL 9.6 (2016): Parallel query execution and native support for sharding.
  • PostgreSQL 10 (2017): Improved parallel query capabilities and logical replication.
  • PostgreSQL 11 (2018): JIT compilation & partitioning enhancements.
  • PostgreSQL 12 (2019): Improved query optimizer & SQL/JSON path expressions.
  • PostgreSQL 13 (2020): Incremental sorting and improved indexing performance.
  • PostgreSQL 14 (2021): Improvements to indexing, security, and performance.
  • PostgreSQL 15 (2022): New features for logical replication. 

What is MySQL?

Developed by MySQL AB in May 1995, MySQL is an open-source RDBMS that’s widely used in web applications and other software development projects.

MySQL is renowned for its performance, scalability, ease of use, flexibility, and wide adoption. With a focus on speed and efficiency, it excels with read-heavy workloads, making it ideal for applications that require quick data retrieval from large datasets.

Its scalability features also allow it to handle increasing workloads, with support for both vertical and horizontal scaling to accommodate growing application demands.

One of MySQL's standout features is its ease of use. It offers straightforward installation and configuration procedures, making it accessible to users of varying levels of expertise. With a user-friendly command-line interface (CLI) and graphical UI, its simplicity has contributed to its popularity among developers.

Flexibility is another key attribute of MySQL, with support for multiple storage engines, including InnoDB, MyISAM, and others. This allows you to choose the most suitable engine based on performance, concurrency, and transactional requirements.

The extensive adoption of MySQL has also fostered a thriving community, leading to a wealth of resources, tutorials, and MySQL cheat sheets for quick reference. MySQL is also highly compatible, offering connectors for popular programming languages like PHP, Python, Java, and more.

Key Features of MySQL

  • Reliability: It has a proven track record of reliability, with features such as automatic crash recovery and backup and restore capabilities.
  • Ease of use: Easy to install and configure and has a user-friendly interface for managing databases and data.
  • Compatibility: It is compatible with a wide range of operating systems, programming languages, and frameworks.
  • High availability: Supports both synchronous and asynchronous replication, allowing for high availability and disaster recovery solutions.
  • Security: Offers robust security features, including encryption, user authentication, and access control.
  • Flexibility: Supports a variety of data types and storage engines, giving users flexibility in how they store and manage their data.
  • Wide platform support: Designed to run on Windows, Linux, macOS, and more, making it compatible with a wide range of operating systems and environments.
  • Open-source: Free to use and distribute, with a large community of developers contributing to its development and improvement.

Pros and Cons of MySQL

Pros

Cons

Ease of Use: MySQL is known for its ease of installation, configuration, and management, making it accessible to users of all skill levels.

Concurrency Control: MySQL primarily relies on locking for concurrency control, which can lead to contention and impact performance in highly concurrent environments.

Performance: MySQL is recognized for its fast and efficient performance, particularly in read-intensive workloads, making it ideal for apps that need quick data retrieval.

Storage Engine Limitations: Not all engines support the full range of capabilities, requiring careful consideration when choosing the right engine for specific use cases.

Scalability: MySQL offers scalability options, allowing efficient handling of growing workloads through vertical scaling and horizontal scaling.

Security: MySQL provides user authentication and access control but may require additional configurations and extensions to achieve the same security level as other databases.

Large Community and Support: MySQL has a large and active community, providing extensive documentation, online resources, and strong community support.

Fragmentation: MySQL can suffer from fragmentation issues, which may affect performance and require periodic maintenance and optimization.

High Availability: MySQL offers built-in replication mechanisms, supporting various replication methods for data redundancy, load balancing, and high availability.

Replication Limitations: Advanced replication features, such as automatic failover and conflict resolution, may require additional configuration or third-party tools beyond.

Compatibility: MySQL has broad compatibility, with connectors available for popular programming languages, making it easy to integrate with various application ecosystems.

Limited Data Types: MySQL offers a narrower range of built-in data types compared to other databases.

Cost: MySQL is open-source and freely available, making it an economical choice for many applications.

Documentation Gaps: MySQL has extensive documentation, but some areas have gaps or lack in-depth explanations for complex or less commonly used features.

Major Releases of MySQL & Key Improvements

  • MySQL 1.0 (1995): Initial release of MySQL, providing basic functionality.
  • MySQL 3.20 (1997): Support for MyISAM storage engine.
  • MySQL 3.23 (2001): Transactions, intro of InnoDB, support for foreign keys.
  • MySQL 4.0 (2003): Support for stored procedures, triggers, and views.
  • MySQL 4.1 (2004): MySQL Cluster storage engine for high availability and scalability.
  • MySQL 5.0 (2005): Subqueries, distributed transactions, and stored routines.
  • MySQL 5.1 (2008): Partitioning, row-based replication, and event scheduler.
  • MySQL 5.5 (2010): Saw InnoDB become the default storage engine, replacing MyISAM.
  • MySQL 5.6 (2013): Improved InnoDB, online schema changes.
  • MySQL 5.7 (2015): Introduced JSON support and spatial data handling improvements.
  • MySQL 8.0 (2018): Introduced Common table expressions (CTEs) & window functions.

What’s the Difference Between PostgreSQL and MySQL?

Let’s take a look at the difference between MySQL and PostgreSQL, focusing on some of the major areas:

  • Data Types: PostgreSQL supports a more extensive set of data types, including arrays, JSON, and geometric types.
  • SQL Compliance: PostgreSQL is known for its strict adherence to SQL standards, while MySQL has its own variations and extensions to the SQL language.
  • Concurrency Control: PostgreSQL has advanced concurrency control, including Multi-Version Concurrency Control (MVCC), while MySQL primarily uses locking.
  • Replication: MySQL offers built-in support for various replication methods, including asynchronous and synchronous replication, while PostgreSQL relies on third-party tools.
  • Stored Procedures and Triggers: PostgreSQL has robust support for stored procedures, triggers, and procedural languages, while MySQL's support is more limited.
  • Full-Text Search: PostgreSQL has a powerful built-in full-text search engine with ranking, stemming, and phrase search, while MySQL’s capabilities are more basic.
  • Geospatial Data: PostgreSQL has strong support for geospatial data, with advanced indexing and query capabilities, while MySQL offers less spatial data functionality.
  • Licensing: MySQL and PostgreSQL are open-source and freely available, but MySQL also has a commercial version offered by Oracle.
  • Object-Relational Database: PostgreSQL supports custom data types, complex data models, and methods on objects, while MySQL is more limited in support.
  • Scalability and Performance: MySQL is favored for horizontal scaling and distributed systems, while PostgreSQL is known for vertical scaling and complex workloads.
  • Security: PostgreSQL offers row-level security, column-level security, and extensive authentication and encryption options, while MySQL includes authentication mechanisms, encrypted connections, and user privileges.

Key Similarities For PostgreSQL and MySQL

Despite some key differences, PostgreSQL and MySQL have a lot in common. Let’s take a look at some of the major similarities between the two:

  • SQL Support: Both MySQL and PostgreSQL offer comprehensive support for SQL, including querying, data manipulation, and data definition capabilities.
  • ACID Compliance: Both MySQL and PostgreSQL adhere to the ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability) principles, ensuring transactional integrity and reliability.
  • Indexing and Query Optimization: Both offer indexing mechanisms to improve query performance and provide query optimizers that strive to execute queries efficiently.
  • Community Support: Both have active and vibrant communities of users and developers that contribute to ongoing development, improvement, and support.
  • Open-Source Nature: MySQL and PostgreSQL are both open-source databases, meaning they are freely available for use, modification, and distribution.
  • Cross-Platform Compatibility: Both databases are designed to run on multiple operating systems, making them adaptable across Windows, Linux, macOS, and more.

When Should You Use MySQL or PostgreSQL?

If you’re unsure which RDBMS to choose for your next project, it might help to consider some of the more popular real-world use cases for MySQL and PostgreSQL.

Use Cases for MySQL

  • Content Management Systems (CMS): MySQL is commonly used as the backend for popular CMS platforms like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal.
  • E-commerce Websites: MySQL powers numerous e-commerce websites, handling product catalogs, customer information, order management, and transactional data.
  • Social Media Applications: MySQL is well-suited for social media platforms, providing fast and scalable data storage for user profiles, posts, comments, and interactions.
  • Analytics and Business Intelligence: MySQL is used for data warehousing and analytics applications, storing and processing large volumes of data for reporting, analysis, and decision-making.
  • Web Applications and APIs: MySQL is widely used for web applications and APIs, providing reliable data storage and retrieval for a variety of apps.

Use Cases for PostgreSQL

  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS): PostgreSQL's robust geospatial capabilities make it an excellent choice for GIS applications.
  • Financial Applications: PostgreSQL is utilized in finance-related applications, handling secure and reliable storage of transactions, account balances, and customer information.
  • Data Science and Analytics: PostgreSQL's support for advanced SQL features, extensibility, and integration with analytical tools make it suitable for data science and analytics workflows, including data exploration, modeling, and machine learning.
  • Scientific Research: PostgreSQL's flexibility and support for custom data types and functions make it valuable in scientific research applications.
  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems: PostgreSQL is used in ERP to manage critical business data like inventory, orders, invoices, and customer information.
  • Government and Public Sector Applications: PostgreSQL's robust security features, adherence to standards, and support for complex data models make it a preferred choice for government and public sector applications.

Major Companies Using PostgreSQL and MySQL

Given how powerful and capable MySQL and PostgreSQL are, many major companies currently use these RDBMS to power their applications. Let’s take a closer look at some impressive examples.

Companies using MySQL

Companies using PostgreSQL

Facebook: Facebook initially used MySQL as its primary database system before developing its own system called MySQL-WebScaleSQL to handle its immense data volumes and scale.

Apple: Apple employs PostgreSQL in various parts of its infrastructure, including iCloud, to manage large volumes of user data and ensure data integrity.

Twitter: Twitter leverages MySQL for various purposes, including storing user data, tweets, and social graph information.

Cisco: Cisco utilizes PostgreSQL for managing network infrastructure data, including configuration data and monitoring information.

Airbnb: Airbnb initially relied on MySQL for managing user profiles, bookings, and other transactional data within its global accommodation marketplace. However, it has recently shifted to AWS RDS.

Fujitsu: Fujitsu employs PostgreSQL for its cloud computing solutions, utilizing its capabilities for reliable data storage and processing.

Netflix: Although Netflix predominantly uses Apache Cassandra for its data store, MySQL is still used for user account management and metadata storage.

Instagram: Instagram actually started with a MySQL backend but gradually migrated to PostgreSQL to handle its ever-increasing data needs.

YouTube: YouTube incorporates MySQL for tasks like storing user data, managing content metadata, and handling real-time analytics.

Reddit: Reddit relies on PostgreSQL to store user-generated content, manage user profiles, and handle the vast amount of community-generated data.

Final Thoughts

When the time comes to choose an open-source RDBMS, PostgreSQL and MySQL are two of the strongest options available to you as a developer, as shown by the vast number of websites, apps, and enterprises that utilize these two systems the world over.

Despite their differences, MySQL and PostgreSQL both provide a robust feature set for data storage, retrieval, and manipulation, not to mention hugely supportive communities. 

If you’re looking for the TL-DR, MySQL is typically favored for its simplicity and performance, while PostgreSQL is chosen by those that need advanced features, data integrity and security.

That said, there’s much more than meets the eye in the debate of PostgreSQL vs MySQL! And when you consider that Netflix and YouTube are using MySQL, it would be unfair to say that it’s not capable of providing advanced functionality. Similarly, Instagram and Reddit wouldn’t be using PostgreSQL if it wasn’t performant.

Ultimately, MySQL and PostgreSQL have both developed impressive reputations after many years of enabling users to handle data with ease and efficiency. The choice is yours, but we hope this head-to-head has shed shed some light on this curious debate. 

Want to broaden your database skill set? Check out:

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Which Is better, PostgreSQL or MySQL?

This really depends on your requirements and use case. In general, PostgreSQL excels in data integrity, advanced features, and scalability, while MySQL is often favored for simplicity and read-heavy workloads.

2. Is PostgreSQL Easier Than MySQL?

This is a very subjective question that really depends on your experience and familiarity with SQL and either RDBMS. That said, some users may find MySQL to be easier due to its simpler design, while others may prefer PostgreSQL for its more strict adoption of SQL. In either case, you can turn to hugely supportive communities to assist your learning.

3. Should I learn PostgreSQL or MySQL?

MySQL and PostgreSQL are both very popular and widely used, and the choice of which to use really depends on your needs. In general, MySQL is good if you’re looking for simplicity, while PostgreSQL is good if you need advanced features, data integrity, and scalability.

4. Which Database Is Best for Large Data?

Generally speaking, PostgreSQL is considered better for large data sets due to its robust scalability, advanced indexing techniques, and optimized query processing. However, MySQL can also handle large data sets effectively in read-heavy scenarios.

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By Sagar Bhatia

Sagar is an engineering graduate and a technology lover and has been writing across various disciplines for over 5 years now. An avid gamer himself, he wishes to create a venture revolving around the e-sports domain in India.

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Zrav

InnoDB in MySQL has had MVCC with the four configurable isolation levels for well over a decade, perhaps two. Also, both MySQL and PgSQL scale quite similarly as demonstrated be the Percona benchmarks, for instance.

7 months ago