Contributor(s): Jack Vaughan
This definition is part of our Essential Guide: Guide to NoSQL databases: How they can help users meet big data needs

MongoDB is an open source database that uses a document-oriented data model.

MongoDB is one of several database types to arise in the mid-2000s under the NoSQL banner. Instead of using tables and rows as in relational databases, MongoDB is built on an architecture of collections and documents. Documents comprise sets of key-value pairs and are the basic unit of data in MongoDB. Collections contain sets of documents and function as the equivalent of relational database tables. 

Like other NoSQL databases, MongoDB supports dynamic schema design, allowing the documents in a collection to have different fields and structures. The database uses a document storage and data interchange format called BSON, which provides a binary representation of JSON-like documents. Automatic sharding enables data in a collection to be distributed across multiple systems for horizontal scalability as data volumes increase.

MongoDB was created by Dwight Merriman and Eliot Horowitz, who had encountered development and scalability issues with traditional relational database approaches while building Web applications at DoubleClick, an Internet advertising company that is now owned by Google Inc. According to Merriman, the name of the database was derived from the word humongous to represent the idea of supporting large amounts of data. Merriman and Horowitz helped form 10Gen Inc. in 2007 to commercialize MongoDB and related software. The company was renamed MongoDB Inc. in 2013. 

The database was released to open source in 2009 and is available under the terms of the Free Software Foundation's GNU AGPL Version 3.0 commercial license. At the time of this writing, among other users, the insurance company MetLife is using MongoDB for customer service applications, the website Craigslist is using it for archiving data, the CERN physics lab is using it for data aggregation and discovery and the The New York Times newspaper is using MongoDB to support a form-building application for photo submissions.

This was last updated in March 2014

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