PostgreSQL Is DB-Engines DBMS of the Year For 2020
Written by Nikos Vaggalis   
Friday, 15 January 2021

In yet another confirmation of its popularity and worth, PostgreSQL has taken the annual accolade awarded by DB-Engines.

In a short statement, DB-Engines states:

PostgreSQL is the database management system that gained more popularity in our DB-Engines Ranking within the last year than any of the other 360 monitored systems. We thus declare PostgreSQL as the DBMS of the Year 2020.

We not covered DB-Engines ranking before even though its been going since 2013 and its chart has an obvious similarity to the TIOBE Index in that it adds new datapoints each month:


So what are the metrics,how is that ranking calculated? DB-Engines ranks products by their current popularity according to the following methodology :

  • Number of mentions of the system on websites, measured as number of results in search engines queries. At the moment, we use Google and Bing for this measurement. In order to count only relevant results, we are searching for <system name> together with the term database, e.g. "Oracle" and "database".

  • General interest in the system. For this measurement, we use the frequency of searches in Google Trends.

  • Frequency of technical discussions about the system. We use the number of related questions and the number of interested users on the well-known IT-related Q&A sites Stack Overflow and DBA Stack Exchange.

  • Number of job offers, in which the system is mentioned. We use the number of offers on the leading job search engines Indeed and Simply Hired.

  • Number of profiles in professional networks, in which the system is mentioned. We use the internationally most popular professional network LinkedIn.

  • Relevance in social networks. We count the number of Twitter tweets, in which the system is mentioned.

The criterion for becoming DB-Engine of the Year is having the largest increase in popularity between successive Januarys:


From this table the top three DBMSs, Oracle, MYSQL and SQL Server all declined in popularity in 2020 while PostgresSQL, in 4th place overall showed the greatest increase over over 45 points.  Microsoft Azure, way down the league in 15th place was close in terms of points and given its much smaller overall score its shoowed a noticeably steep increase. MongoDB also showed strong performance in 2020.

Not only was PostgreSQL  the most popular DBMS of last year itbecame the first system to win this title three times, having already won the 2017 and 2018 awards.

But let's get behind the scenes,what is the reason of PostgreSQL's huge popularity? In three words, Stability, Features and Extensibility.

I've given a high level overview in "The Enduring Influence Of Postgres", which is a historical recollection of the Postgres project and its impact on the DBMS industry which provides insight into the key features of the object-relational database as conceived by Mike Stonebraker;or in other words the innovative ideas that shaped Stonebraker's vision before anyone else.

Supporting ADTs in a Database System
At the core of the Object-Relational database notion was the support of ADTs or Abstract Data Types that went beyond the traditional ones handled by the database.JSON, JSONB,XML

Extensible access methods for new data types
New kind of indexes and interfaces like those powering up the famous PostGIS geographic information system.

Active Databases and Rule Systems
Rules/triggers pioneered under Ingres were yet another construct popularized by Postgres that found its way into all the major database engines.For a good example of heavy usage of triggers under a CDC (Change Data Capture) scenario and Ingres,not Postgres,check Connecting To The Outside World with Perl and Database Events

Log-centric Storage and Recovery

Support for Multiprocessors: XPRS

Support for a Variety of Language Models

Open Source

Commercial Adaptations

This was a quick summary of the historic recollection;again,for more detail check "The Enduring Influence Of Postgres".

Come to now we can enjoy the fruits of Stonebraker's vision.DBMS's have encompassed a number of technologies far beyond the relational model, although PostgreSQL has got the full package.For example:

  • Storing JSON directly into the database or JSONB if you need to index it, by using a GIN index, and query it.

  • Not just hash and B-Tree indexes;PostgreSQL has many of them, like GIN which we've already seen,GiST for full text search and geospatial scenarios, SP-GiST, RUM, BRIN and Bloom.

  • Extending the core engine, like PostGIS, one of the larger extensions which turns Postgres into a geospatial database which comes with new datatypes and operators, giving PostgreSQL the edge over multi-million commercial counterparts.

  • What about pub/sub support inside the database?Yes,PostgreSQL can do that too with the LISTEN/NOTIFY command.Check Who says PostgreSQL can't Pub/Sub like Redis?

  • User Defined Functions in programming languages like Python with PL/Python.What about Webassembly?Announcing the first Postgres extension to run WebAssembly

The OSS aspect and community of the case.Postgres became open source therefore open to contributions once it escaped the confinements of the Berkley laboratory.It was this property that in the end let it evolve into a melting pot of the newest and greatest ideas; and this move paid dividends very soon.After two students introduced a variant of SQL to the engine in place of the propriety Postquel query language (QUEL was Ingres's) the team got distracted with other activities.At this point the open source contributors stepped in by not just contributing peripherally but also improving the very core.Since then the community has been growing.

Being that versatile it acts as the base for other groundbraking products like Citus which extends Postgres to a horizontally scalable distributed database beyond a single node of 100GB.PostgreSQL has long been an attractive starting point for building commercial database systems, given its permissive open source license, its robust codebase, its flexibility, and breadth of functionality.

And finally, Stability; there no backwards breaking compatibility. Each release just upgrades and makes things better.

In conclusion, I'm not surprised at all that PostresSQL won the award and I predict it may well happen again another year.

More Information

PostgreSQL is the DBMS of the Year 2020
DB-Engines Ranking


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Last Updated ( Friday, 15 January 2021 )