Apache Holds Steady in a Changing Web Server Landscape


Once upon a time, the monthly Netcraft Web server survey was nice and boring. Regular as clockwork, it showed the complete dominance of Apache in this sector. Indeed, Apache had been the leading Web server for so long that people tended to take it for granted - to the point where they forgot that here was a clear case of open source trouncing Microsoft, whose Internet Information Services (IIS) offering had only a piffling share.

Microsoft, of course, was well aware of this inconvenient high-profile advertisement for the power of open source, and around about three years ago made a very serious effort to unseat Apache, using every means at its disposal. As the share of IIS steadily rose, and that of Apache steadily fell, it seemed that Microsoft might even manage the trick.

But then something strange happened: the Web server market started to become more complex – and more interesting. First, Google replaced Apache with its own home-grown Web server, which obviously affected the market share significantly, given the scale of Google's Web operations. Then the mysterious qq.com site in China came out with its own server, also used in very large numbers, even if not very visible in the West.

And now, according to the September Netcraft survey, we have yet another player, the nginx Web server, that is starting to garner significant market share.

Even though it may be a new name to many of us, nginx, which is released under a BSD licence, has been around for a while:

nginx has been running for more than five years on many heavily loaded Russian sites including Rambler (RamblerMedia.com).

In March 2007 about 20% of all Russian virtual hosts were served or proxied by nginx.

According to Google Online Security Blog in June 2007 ago nginx served or proxied about 4% of all Internet virtual hosts.

2 of Alexa US Top100 sites use nginx in March 2008.

According to Netcraft in December 2008 nginx served or proxied 3.5 millions virtual hosts. And now it is on 3rd place (not counting in-house Google server) and ahead of lighttpd.

It's obviously good news for the Web's ecosystem that so many different servers now hold significant market share, since this makes it far more resilient. It's also good to see from the latest Netcraft survey that Apache's share is holding up under this onslaught. The same cannot be said about Microsoft's IIS, which has now dropped back to pretty much the base level it had before it began its big push. So much for countering that advertisement for free software.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.

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