MySQL (Structured Query Language) is a free to use, open source RDBMS (Relational Database Management System) that allows users to easily access their website's databases. Without such functionality, virtually all of the world's websites would not be able to function in the manner they do today. While MySQL is not the only database available, the vast majority of websites on the Internet rely on it to run properly. Even when other technologies are in use, MySQL is often still used as a part of a company's infrastructure. A good example of this would be Facebook. The company relies heavily on MySQL for their data, but also employs other databases such as Cassandra and HBase.
Databases provide a way for large sets of data to be stored in a structured format. MySQL uses a table structure where each row of data has a set amount of fields. For instance, if a set of data was made for a person, the fields could include a name, birth date, gender and virtually anything else that would identify that person. This is usually accompanied by an ID which allows the set of data to have a unique value to update the data with. This eliminates any confusion when two sets of data have matching fields and need to be updated or deleted.
MySQL also follows the basic definition of a relational database and allows data to be joined together by uniquely identifying keys or fields. This allows data to be accessed together for specific reasons. Following the previous example, the data of a person could be set in one table, while that person's physical attributes could be in a completely different table. This would allow the data to be freely joined if needed or be accessed separately of one another. This provides many benefits including: the reduction of data redundancy, increased flexibility, more reliable multi-user access and an easier solution for user data privileges. Many programming languages are supported for use with MySQL, including: C, C++, PHP, ASP, Cold Fusion, Java and more.
MySQL is available from the majority of web hosts because it is the most widely used database platform in the world. Since most software applications rely on MySQL to run, it has become the norm for web hosts to offer hosting packages with MySQL databases, or at least an option to add it. Wordpress, the most popular and widely used content management system, relies solely on MySQL to hold all of a site's data and content. In fact, almost every popular forum, image gallery, wiki, content management system and ecommerce solution requires that a server has MySQL. This, accompanied with being open source, has propelled the popularity of the database among the software community.
The ease of use, high performance and high reliability that MySQL offers has been a big factor in it becoming the world's most popular open source database. Users have the ability to install MySQL on over twenty different operating systems including Windows, Linux and Mac OS. With most websites running off of MySQL, there continues to be frequent updates and releases that further enhance MySQL's functionality, speed and data reliability.