Views in MySQL are handled using one of two different algorithms:
MERGE is simply a query expansion with appropriate aliases.
TEMPTABLE is just what it sounds like, the view puts the results into a temporary table before running the WHERE clause, and there are no indexes on it.
The 'third' option is
UNDEFINED, which tells MySQL to select the appropriate algorithm. MySQL will attempt to use
MERGE because it is more efficient. Main Caveat:
If the MERGE algorithm cannot be used, a temporary table must be used instead. MERGE cannot be used if the view contains any of the following constructs:
Aggregate functions (SUM(), MIN(), MAX(), COUNT(), and so forth)
UNION or UNION ALL
Subquery in the select list
Refers only to literal values (in this case, there is no underlying table)
I would venture to guess your VIEWS are requiring the TEMPTABLE algorithm, causing performance issues.
Here is a really old blog post on the performance of views in MySQL and it doesn't seem to have gotten better.
There might, however, be some light at the end of the tunnel on this issue of temporary tables not containing indexes (causing full table scans). In 5.6:
For cases when materialization is required for a subquery in the FROM clause, the optimizer may speed up access to the result by adding an index to the materialized table.
After adding the index, the optimizer can treat the materialized derived table the same as a usual table with an index, and it benefits similarly from the generated index. The overhead of index creation is negligible compared to the cost of query execution without the index.
As @ypercube points out, MariaDB 5.3 has added the same optimization. This article has an interesting overview of the process:
The optimization is applied then the derived table could not be merged into its parent SELECT which happens when the derived table doesn't meet criteria for mergeable VIEW