UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

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The Rise and Fall of Apache?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 25 Apr 2008

The Data

It can difficult to know how to respond when the evidence fails to support one’s beliefs. What then, should one make of the recent figures from Netcraft’s March 2008 Web Server Survey which show that figures for usage of the Apache Web server software peaked in 2005 and the decline since then has been matched with a corresponding rise in use of Microsoft’s Web server software?

Web server usage figures

Using The Data To Unearth Preconceived Ideas

I used this image, incidentally, in an online presentation yesterday, but without the companies’ names being displayed. In response to my question “Which company do you think seems to be in decline?” the answers suggested included Facebook, Twitter and Blackboard – all companies which various participants in the conference had negative views on.


In professions such as politics or in the commercial sector we might expect inconvenient data to be conveniently ignored (says me cynically!). In higher education, however, we pride ourselves on developing theories to fit the facts and not finding facts to fit our beliefs (says me in a rather arrogant fashion!). Or do we? I can’t help but feel that in IT we have a whole series of beliefs and find it difficult to know how to respond when the evidence challenges such beliefs. Indeed I’ve commented on this previously: we haven’t embraced the open source FireFox browser to the extent which had been expected when the browser was released; conformance with the WAI accessibility guidelines doesn’t necessarily bring about universal accessibility and open standards sometimes don’t work. The IT profession needs, in my opinion, to be more sceptical about its beliefs and to gather evidence to demonstrate, or refute, such beliefs.

Returning To The Data

But what, I wonder, can we make of the growth in Microsoft’s Web server software? And, perhaps more intriguingly, what should we make of Google’s entry into the chart in July 2007?

8 Responses to “The Rise and Fall of Apache?”

  1. Mike Nolan said

    These are percentages remember so it’s not true that “usage of the Apache Web server software peaked in 2005”. Indeed, Apache added ~1.8 million domains in March compared to Google’s ~840,000.

    If you take active sites – that’s what actually matters not the millions of parked domains or dead blogs – the Apache is growing while Microsoft and Google dropped.

    You can make statistics tell any story, but that doesn’t mean you have to!

  2. I think there are a few things going on the netcraft graph:

    – Microsoft made a deal with goDaddy to moved parked domains over to Windows/IIS, probably to affect this graph (

    – Google started naming their version of Apache, GWS (

    – A general move from small sites from shared hosting to VPS (virtual machines) means that to save memory they use small sellect()/poll() based webservers like lighttpd and nginx (both open source) to save memory.

  3. Code Gorilla said

    Another question would be how many sites are now run to get the interface marketing want, rather than providing a technical platform for open and accessible delivery of information: how much is ActiveX and Flash and ASP, and how much will work for users NOT using a full-sized graphical interface, with all the latest plugins installed?

    Are we slowly accepting that the web is a rich visual environment, and if you can’t see clearly then you are at a disadvantage?

  4. I’m going to stand up for Microsoft on this one! After a pretty flaky start IIS has evolved into a robust, reliable and secure product (really!), and, more importantly, Dot.Net is a great development environment. I’ll get my coat now…

  5. I think you should have shown the ‘Totals for Active Servers Across All Domains’ graph, which tells a very different story.

  6. +1 for Mike and Rich’s responses. The data on its own is meaningless without background information.

    Also, I guess it’s worth clarifying that in your title you’re talking exclusively about the Apache HTTP Server, and not the Apache Foundation.

  7. Mike Nolan said

    Code Gorilla: “progress” can be shown in many different ways. We may be making aspects of our site more visually engaging, but we’re also serving up our data in a variety of formats which users can pick up and use how they wish. Most websites are more accessible than TV is for blind people or radio is for those with hearing impairments.

  8. […] in April 2008 in a post entitled “The Rise and Fall of Apache?” I contrasted the fall in the numbers of Web servers running on the Apache Web server […]

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