Apache Losing Ground Against IIS on the Web
August 13, 2007 Timothy Prickett Morgan
When you are the dominant supplier of server operating systems in the world, as Microsoft has become in the past decade, you can bide your time on the Web server front, taking small bites of market share from open source and other alternatives, counting on the weight of OS market share and tight integration of the Web server with the OS to propel your own Web server to new heights.
This is what Microsoft has done, and the strategy has worked, if the latest market share statistics from Netcraft are any guide.
According to the August 2007 Web Server Survey, which polled the operating system in use by just under 128 million domains on the Internet, Microsoft’s Internet Information Server, or IIS, which is the integrated Web server that comes with the Windows operating system, has once again gained share–at least in terms of domain count. According to Netcraft, its survey pool grew by 2.3 million domains from July and August, and the count for IIS grew by 2.6 million sites, to reach 43.9 million sites. That is an increase of 1.4 percent domain name share among all Web servers reached by Netcraft in its survey, and it gives Microsoft’s IIS a 34.3 percent share of the aggregate Web server installed base as reckoned by domain count.
The Apache Web server, which runs on a variety of platforms (including the AS/400, iSeries, and System i servers) but which is the dominant Web server on Unix and Linux servers, saw its share of the domain count slip by nearly 2 percent, to 65.2 million domains, giving it 50.9 percent of the base of domains.
Apache has been the dominant Web server since the March 1996 Netcraft survey, which is when most of the corporations in the world did not even know about the World Wide Web and did not yet have a presence on it. The open source Apache Web server peaked in terms of domain count in Netcraft’s November 2005 survey, when it accounted for 71 percent of the domains out there on the Internet. At the same time that Apache went into decline, IIS had a sharp jump in domain count, rising to about a third of domains in early 2006–a level it hit after a similar rise in IIS penetration in 2001 and 2002, which was followed by a gradual decline and yet another ascendance of Apache.
Not surprisingly, Google‘s homegrown Web server supports 5.7 million domains, and has a 4.4 percent share of all the domains on the Internet. Sun Microsystems, Zeus Technology, and an open source Web server called lighttpd all have a few bits of share across those 129 million domains.
The most interesting aspect of the Netcraft survey is what happens when you shake out the inactive domains from the Web server polling data. A little less than half of those domains in the Netcraft poll are active sites. Among active domains, Apache’s lead over IIS is small and continues to shrink. Apache is on 28.5 million sites, giving it a 48.2 percent share of active domains, while IIS is on 21.3 million domains, a 36.2 percent share. Google has 8.2 percent of active domains, and Sun, Zeus, and the lighttpd Web server have even smaller shares than they do in the larger domain pool.
The analysts at Netcraft say that if current trends persist, IIS could catch and maybe even surpass Apache in 2008. Then again, if you look at the data from 2000 through 2002, you would have guessed this would have happened in May 2003 or so–and it didn’t. Microsoft’s acquisitions of HotMail made a big difference in share stats for IIS, as does its BCentral service for businesses. Then again, if Microsoft makes a big acquisition–say it buys Yahoo–then tens of millions of domains could change hands and radically alter the Web domain landscape.