Devs Await Open Source Word After Commercial RethinkDB Effort Fails

With the company behind the RethinkDB project having failed and its engineering team scooped up by Stripe, Big Data developers are awaiting further word on plans to continue it as fully open source.

Although failing to achieve commercial success, the RethinkDB database was lauded by many developers for its different approach and solid technology on developer-oriented social sites such as Hacker News and Reddit.

"I can't describe how sad I am over this," said a developer on Hacker News. "RethinkDB is not just excellent DB, but it is yardstick on how future DBs should look like. What you accomplished there is excellent balance on features, great UI. We really need this project to go on, even if slower."

Over at Reddit, one thread featured the comment: "I really love the product they were trying to build/they built. I hope I can contribute to the open source project as a way of showing support."

A developer on another thread said, "Man, this sucks. RethinkDB seemed to be one of the coolest and most flexible NoSQLs out there."

As a member of that NoSQL camp, RethinkDB was developed as a distributed document-oriented database that stores JSON documents with dynamic schemas, designed for pushing real-time updates for queries to apps, according to Wikipedia. RethinkDB's commercial Web site describes it as "The open source database for the real-time Web." Here's a capsule summation of the project:

It inverts the traditional database architecture by exposing an exciting new access model -- instead of polling for changes, the developer can tell RethinkDB to continuously push updated query results to applications in real-time. RethinkDB's real-time push architecture dramatically reduces the time and effort necessary to build scalable real-time apps.

In addition to being designed from the ground up for real-time apps, RethinkDB offers a flexible query language, intuitive operations and monitoring APIs, and is easy to setup and learn.

RethinkDB exec Slava Akhmechet last week announced the company behind the project was shutting down. "We worked very hard to make RethinkDB successful, but in spite of all our efforts we were ultimately unable to build a sustainable business," he said.

Many developers bemoaned the commercial failure as another example of marketing trumping technology, with several decrying the success of alternatives such as MongoDB while a project featuring what they believed to be more solid engineering failed in the business world.

Meanwhile, Big Data coders are awaiting word on their hope that the project keeps evolving as solely an open source project. It's already hosted on GitHub under a GNU Affero General Public License.

"We're working with members of our community to develop a continuity plan for RethinkDB and Horizon [a real-time, open source back-end for JavaScript apps]," Akhmechet said. "Both projects will continue to be available, distributed under open source licenses. We hope to continue our open development process with a larger community of contributors."

Such development might well see contributions from the RethinkDB engineering team, members of which were hired by Stripe, which provides a "software platform for running an Internet business."

Akhmechet reportedly chimed in on that move in the Hacker News discussion. "The team at Stripe has been absolutely phenomenal throughout this process, they've gone above and beyond in finding high-impact projects for our team," read a comment by a reader claiming to be Akhmechet, who apparently uses multiple handles on the discussion site. "We're brainstorming together how to transition RethinkDB to a self-sustaining open source project, and Stripe is super-supportive of that too. If there is a way for RethinkDB to live on, we'll find it!"

In his blog post, Akhmechet reached out to the community to aid this process.

We'd like your help to ensure RethinkDB's future as an open-source project! We don't have all of the details figured out, but we wanted to be as open as possible during this process. If you're interested in contributing, please join us in the #open-rethinkdb channel of our public Slack group. You can expect to see development slow down in the meantime, but everything will continue to be available on and We will post updates on our blog and Twitter as we continue working things out."

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.