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Does MariaDB ever plan to have full JSON support or is it just going to be an alias forever?

It's a bummer to set constraints definition in the table just to make it work properly. Application-level migration libraries (like Phinx) doesn't support it so you have to do extra work which defeats the purpose of migration libraries.

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No plans that I know about.

Regarding constraints, I assume you mean for JSON validation: See Changes and Improvements in MariaDB 10.4:

The JSON_VALID function is automatically used as a CHECK constraint for the JSON data type alias in order to ensure that a valid json document is inserted (MDEV-13916)

... so you don't have to set the constraint explicitly.

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