"They will just think about MySQL being under the GPL, and the GPL not being enough to save MySQL. I that case, it may mean the end of the GPL -- not because the GPL is a bad license but because people [will not remember] that MySQL is a library."
Yet the most ominous implication of leaving the acquisition unchallenged is that, by ignoring the arguments brought by Widenius and his supporters, the United States, European Union and other jurisdictions will have concluded that free and open source software is not to be considered in anti-trust cases.
"That means the laws that you have for commercial products, that you can't buy a competing commercial product to kill it, doesn't apply to open source," Widenius warns. "In effect, that means it's easy to kill an open source product. It means that all the protection that people get from anti-competition laws don't apply to open source. And that's a bad thing, and that's what scares me the most."
In effect, Widenius suggests, Oracle will have provided "a blueprint for legislators to say that, if anyone buys an open source project, they don't have to care." Where copyright and patent have failed to undermine free and open source software, the laws governing corporate acquisitions just may succeed.
Widenius is continuing to fight, but a hint of desperation was in his comments when we spoke. Although he expects to be involved in an appeal of the European Union decision, he is already making plans for the worst.
Asked how people can support his efforts, Widenius replies, "They can contact Oracle, and try to get some binding promises for the future of MySQL, saying that these public ones are not enough.
"If they don't trust Oracle, then I'd say that MariaDB is their best bet, and I would recommend that they should test MariaDB and do what limited things they can to ensure that MariaDB will get the features they need in the future, either by being a part of it or paying someone to develop the features that they need. If we can create a commercial ecosystem around MariaDB, we have a small chance to save MySQL. But I would still say that it's against all odds."
Should those efforts fail, Widenius hopes that MariaDB can at least be a resource for the community. "It doesn't work for everyone; I mean, commercial applications can't use it," he admits. "But at least we can ensure that we can keep something available for five to ten years. If we can get some sponsors, we can do more, but our ambition is to make MariaDB available for everyone else. For KDE and everything else [that currently relies on MySQL], we'll put some resources into helping them develop for MariaDB.
"The question is just: will the open source community be enough? I mean, we are spending 100,000 Euros a month just to keep our organization alive and do a limited [feature] set for MySQL. But someone has to pay, and it can't always be the open source community."