MySQL vs PostgreSQL: A Comparison of Two Popular Open-Source Databases

MySQL and PostgreSQL are two of the most popular open-source relational databases. This article compares the core aspects, similarities, and differences between MySQL and PostgreSQL to help you make an informed choice for your database requirements.

Published: 03/21/2024|By: Dashbase Team
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In the realm of relational database management systems (RDBMS), MySQL and PostgreSQL stand out as two of the most popular and widely used open-source options. Both systems provide robust solutions for managing data, but they cater to different needs and preferences. This article delves into the core aspects, similarities, and differences between MySQL and PostgreSQL to aid in making an informed choice for your database requirements.

Historically, PostgreSQL has been known for its advanced features, extensibility, and standards compliance, making it a preferred choice for applications requiring complex queries, data integrity, and scalability. MySQL, on the other hand, has been lauded for its speed, simplicity, and ease of use, making it a popular choice for web applications and startups. It was common wisdom that PostgreSQL offers more complete SQL support (MySQL lacked support for features like CTEs, window functions, check constraints, etc.) and better data integrity, while MySQL was significantly faster and easier to use.

In modern times both databases have come a long way and for the most part offer comparable features. For many applications, there won't be much of a difference in terms of performance or features. However, there are still some key differences between the two databases that might make one a better fit for your specific use case. This article will explore the similarities and differences between MySQL and PostgreSQL to help you make an informed decision.

About MySQL

MySQL, an Oracle-backed open-source relational database, was created in 1995 by Michael Widenius and David Axmark. It quickly rose to prominence due to its reliability, simplicity, and speed. MySQL is designed to handle large volumes of data with an emphasis on web applications. Over the years, it has become the go-to database for web developers, powering a significant portion of the internet, including prominent platforms like WordPress, Facebook, and Twitter.

About PostgreSQL

PostgreSQL, often referred to as Postgres, is a powerful, open-source object-relational database system with a strong emphasis on extensibility and standards compliance. Since its inception in 1986 by the University of California at Berkeley, PostgreSQL has developed a reputation for reliability, feature robustness, and performance. It is highly regarded for its advanced features, such as support for complex queries, foreign keys, MVCC (multiversion concurrency control), and its ability to write stored procedures in various programming languages.

Similarities Between PostgreSQL and MySQL

Despite their differences, MySQL and PostgreSQL share several key characteristics:

  • Relational Databases: Both systems are based on the relational model, organizing data into tables with predefined relationships between them.

  • SQL for Querying: They use SQL (Structured Query Language) as their primary language for querying and manipulating data.

  • Open Source: MySQL and PostgreSQL are open-source projects, offering the freedom to use, modify, and distribute the software.

  • Client Libraries: Both databases support a wide range of programming languages through numerous client libraries, facilitating easy integration with different development environments.

  • Managed Hosting Solutions: A variety of managed hosting options are available for both MySQL and PostgreSQL, providing scalability, maintenance, and support services.

Differences Between MySQL and PostgreSQL

While MySQL and PostgreSQL share common ground, their differences are significant and can influence the choice of database for a project:

  • Concurrency Control (MVCC): PostgreSQL implements MVCC, allowing multiple users to read and modify data simultaneously without interfering with each other. This feature enhances performance and data integrity in scenarios with high concurrency. MySQL, by contrast, does not offer native MVCC, which can impact its performance and scalability in certain applications.

  • Stored Procedures and Triggers: PostgreSQL supports writing stored procedures in a variety of languages beyond SQL, including Python and JavaScript, offering greater flexibility. It also supports "INSTEAD OF" triggers, allowing more complex manipulations. MySQL is more limited, only supporting AFTER and BEFORE triggers for basic SQL statements.

  • Row-Level Security: PostgreSQL provides row-level security, enabling fine-grained control over who can access or modify specific rows within a table. This feature is particularly useful for applications requiring stringent data access controls. MySQL lacks native support for row-level security, making its implementation more cumbersome.

  • SQL Conformance: PostgreSQL is mostly compliant with the SQL standard, offering a wide range of SQL features and conforming closely to the official specifications. MySQL, on the other hand, is only partially conformant to the SQL standard, which might affect the portability of SQL code.

  • Spatial Data: Both databases offer support for spatial data, but in different ways. MySQL includes built-in spatial data features, making it easier to work with geographical data. PostgreSQL relies on the PostGIS extension for spatial data support, offering powerful but more complex functionalities.


Choosing between MySQL and PostgreSQL depends on the specific requirements of your project. MySQL might be the better choice for web applications requiring speed and simplicity, while PostgreSQL stands out for applications demanding advanced features, extensibility, and strict standards compliance. Regardless of your choice, both databases offer robust solutions backed by extensive documentation and active communities, ensuring support and resources are readily available.