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The Most Popular Databases in 2020

Which database solution is currently most popular? Which SQL dialect should you study? In this article, I’ll share the results of my research and my personal experience. Here are the databases that are worth learning SQL to use.

First, let's answer some simple questions: Is SQL still useful? Is it worth learning? If you complete an online SQL course, will it make your work easier? The answer is YES!

Why? Take a look at the results of the StackOverflow Developers Survey 2020. StackOverflow is a gigantic website, with over 50 million users. The survey summarizes the latest IT trends. StackOverflow asked programmers questions about how they learn, what tools they use, and how they want to develop further. 65,000 developers participated.

One survey question dealt with the most popular technologies. What was the reply amongst professional developers?

2020 Developer Survey

It’s no surprise that the first two places in the ranking were taken by JavaScript and HTML, popular web development languages. SQL was third on the list, winning 54.7 percent of the votes for all users and 57 percent for professionals. It's not a coincidence. Data use and processing have been an important IT challenge for years. Every day, thousands of terabytes of data are generated. It’s not a question of why you should learn SQL, but rather why aren’t you learning it?

Most Popular Databases in 2020

And now the specifics. What database solutions are currently the most popular? Which are gaining users?

Just like last year, the podium belongs to the big three: MySQL, PostgreSQL, and MS SQL Server. There are no signs that anything will change soon for these three. MySQL and PostgreSQL are free and run under open source licenses. Plus, they have huge user communities that keep developing them and adding more plugins and improvements.

Let’s take a quick look at the top five databases in this ranking:

2020 Developer Survey

1. MySQL

MySQL

MySQL has been at the top of the popularity ranking for several years. Why? It’s free, works for most applications, and runs on most popular platforms, including Linux, Windows, and macOS.

We recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of MySQL; it was started in 1994 by Swedish programmers David Axmark and Michael Widenius. In 2008, MySQL was acquired by IT giant Sun Microsystems; in 2010, Sun (and thus MySQL) was acquired by Oracle. Here some users spot a controversy: Although Oracle representatives have sworn one version of MySQL will remain open source, many people fear it will change over to a proprietary (licensed) version. (Note: Both open source and proprietary versions are available.) Therefore, they prefer solutions not related to IT leaders – such as the next one in the ranking, PostgreSQL.

2. PostgreSQL

PostgreSQL

PostgreSQL is free,open-source, and will work in all possible situations and on all platforms. It has a very dynamic community of users who help develop the project and write their own plugins and extensions.

PostgreSQL (Postgres for short) is my personal favorite. I wrote about it recently in Which Major Companies Use PostgreSQL? What Do They Use It for?. This is the database system used by Instagram, Twitch, and Skype. That should be a sufficient recommendation. Plus, StackOverflow research backs this up: PostgreSQL gains users each year.

You don't know Postgres yet? Start learning it today; it’s a really good career development move. I recommend the track SQL from A to Z in PostgreSQL. You will find everything you need to become a professional Postgres user. Don’t be afraid if you’ve no IT or database background – our SQL courses are designed so that you build knowledge step by step and master new skills with practice.

3. Microsoft SQL Server

Microsoft SQL Server

This is a Microsoft product, established in 1989 and constantly developed since.

This is a Microsoft product, established in 1989 and constantly developed since.

Many companies trust Microsoft, use other solutions from this company, and do not want to include anything else in their IT ecosystem. So you will find MS Server in many businesses, especially larger corporations.

Despite the dominance of open source solutions on the market, MS Server is doing great. Don't be afraid that once you learn it, you will never use it. Every dollar you spend on learning MS SQL Server will pay off.

Also, it’s good to know that although the commercial paid version is commonly used, there are free versions. These have very limited possibilities and options. For example, in the Express version, you can use only one processor, 1 GB memory, and 10 GB database files. This version is perfect for learning SQL, if not for business use.

In addition to SQL Server, Microsoft also offers the great Cloud-based Azure platform. This means you can avoid installing MS Server on a physical computer, putting it on the Cloud instead. This facilitates database work for multiple users and also keeps things safer than a single onsite installation.

SQL Azure, like MS SQL Server, uses the relational query language T-SQL. Do you want to learn it? LearnSQL.com offers some great courses. If you’re starting your adventure with SQL, I recommend the SQL Fundamentals in MS SQL Server course. If you’re already an SQL user, try the Recursive Queries in MS SQL Server course. It will power up your SQL skills.

If you want to learn more about MS SQL Server, my colleague Roman described it very well in his article Microsoft SQL Server: Pros and Cons. Check it out.

4. SQLite

SQLite

This great solution is gaining popularity. It’s free to use and available under an open-source license. Even the SQLite source code is in the public domain.

SQLite is most often chosen by mobile app developers. The database content is stored in one file (up to 140 TB). The library implements the SQL engine, making it possible to use the database without having to run a separate RDBMS process. For applications, this is often very practical.

SQLite is based on the SQL-92 standard. This means that you will be able to work with it after finishing our SQL from A to Z track.

The SQLite project has been in development since 2000 and has been gaining continual support. In 2018, only 19.7 percent of professional developers indicated they used this database; this year, it’s more than 30 percent. And that’s not by accident. This is a great solution for specific applications.

5. MongoDB

MongoDB

MongoDB is the only solution in the top five that is not based on a relational database. In this open-source offering, data is stored in JSON or BSON (Binary JSON) files.

If you've worked with classic relational databases, MongoDB may seem a bit strange. But it can easily cope with specific applications, e.g. as a website data store or log aggregator. In a traditional database, processing these types of files could be burdensome.

I admit I'm not a fan of the NoSQL movement. I believe that SQL is so refined that you don't need anything else in databases. Clearly, not everyone agrees with this opinion: 26% of those surveyed by StackOverflow indicated they preferred MongoDB. And tech giants like eBay, Adobe, and Google are using it.

Although market trends indicate that although NoSQL is used, SQL and its dialects will remain the industry standard for a long time to come.

Now, let’s move on to another question: Do you need a formal education in computer science to be a programmer?

How Important Is Formal Education for Programmers?

Don't worry, you don't need a degree to become a programmer and write code. Most professional programmers in the survey believe that formal education is important but not necessary. So, it is not essential to operate in this business. Moreover, 15% believe that formal education is not important at all.

2020 Developer Survey

What should you do if you want to get into programming without a degree? It's best to focus on specific skills and gain knowledge using professional online courses, such as those offered on LearnSQL.com. You’ll find something for complete newbies (the SQL Basics course) and intermediate/advanced users (Window Functions or Revenue Trend Analysis in SQL). All courses are interactive and require only an Internet connection, a browser, and a bit of motivation.

Give yourself a chance to become a professional SQL developer, SQL analyst, or data engineer. Find out what options are available in the article Types of Database Jobs: Choose One of Them and Start Being Awesome.

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