What are alternatives to SQL database storage for a web site?

CouchDB (http://couchdb.apache.org/index.html) is a non-sql database, and seems to be a popular project these days, as well as Google's bigtable, or GT.M (http://sourceforge.net/projects/fis-gtm) which has been around forever.

Object databases abound as well; dbforobjects (http://www.db4o.com/), ZODB (http://www.zope.org/Products/StandaloneZODB), just to name a few.

All of these are supposedly faster and simpler than traditional SQL databases for certain use cases, but none approach the simplicity of a flat file.

SQLite is invented for this.

It's just a flat-file that contains a complete SQL database. You can query, update, insert, delete, there's little to no overhead in installation and all you need is the driver (which comes standard in PHP )

SQLite is a software library that implements a self-contained, serverless, zero-configuration, transactional SQL database engine.

Kind of weird that nobody mentioned this already?

There are a lot of alternatives. But having SQLite which gives you SQL power combined with no fuss of file based storage, there is no need to look for these alternatives. SQLite is light enough to be used in cell phones and MP3 players, so I don't see how it could be considered an overkill.

So unless your application needs something very specific, don't bother. Most alternatives are a lot harder to use and have less performance.