October 2014 Web Server Survey

In the October 2014 survey we received responses from 1,028,932,208 sites, which is nearly six million more than last month.

Apache regains the lead

Microsoft lost the lead to Apache this month, as the two giants continue to battle closely for the largest share of all websites. Apache gained nearly 30 million sites, while Microsoft lost 22 million, causing Apache to be thrust back into the lead by more than 36 million sites. In total, 385 million sites are now powered by Apache, giving it a 37.45% share of the market.

A significant contributor to this change was the expiry of domains previously used for link farming on Microsoft IIS servers. The domains used by these link farms were acquired and the sites are now hosted on Apache servers at Confluence-Networks, which display Network Solutions parking notices.

A new major release in the Apache 2.2 legacy branch was announced on 3 September. Apache 2.2.29 also incorporates many changes — including several security fixes — from version 2.2.28, which was not officially released. New versions of nginx stable and mainline were also released during September, which included fixes for an SSL session reuse vulnerability, plus several other bugfixes.

Top million sites

The million busiest websites now represent less than 0.1% of all websites in the survey, but provide an insight into the preferences amongst the sites which are responsible for the great majority of today's web traffic.

Just over half (50.2%) of the top million sites use Apache, which is very similar to its share amongst all active sites; however, nginx's market share is skewed noticeably higher amongst the top million sites, where it powers 20.3% of sites, compared with only 14.3% of all active sites.

Computer growth

The most stable metric is the market share of web-facing computers — hundreds of thousands of websites can easily be served from a single computer (and subsequently disappear all in one go) but it is obviously far less trivial and less desirable to deploy or decommission a significant number of computers. Netcraft's survey is also able to identify distinct computers which use multiple web-facing IP addresses, which adds further stability.

Apache leads in this market with a 47.5% share, and Microsoft also performs well with 30.7%, but both have been gradually falling over the past few years as a result of nginx's strong growth. nginx gained more than 17,000 additional web-facing computers this month, helping to bring its market share up to 10.3%.

New top level domains

The relatively new .xyz domain, which showed tremendous growth over the past couple of months, has started to flatten out slightly after gaining only 33,000 sites this month (+8%). Nonetheless, this is still quite a healthy gain, albeit notably less than last month's growth of 177,000 hostnames which then boosted its total by 78%.

Other promising TLDs include .london, .hamburg and .公司, each of which had fewer than 50 sites in last month's survey, but now have 17,000, 11,000 and 10,000 sites respectively.

The internationalised .公司 (.xn--55qx5d) TLD is delegated to the Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences. It means "company", making it the Chinese equivalent of .com.

Total number of websites

Web server market share

DeveloperSeptember 2014PercentOctober 2014PercentChange
Apache355,925,98534.79%385,354,99437.45%2.66
Microsoft371,406,90936.31%345,485,41933.58%-2.73
nginx144,717,67014.15%148,330,19014.42%0.27
Google19,499,1541.91%19,431,0261.89%-0.02
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September 2014 Web Server Survey

In the September 2014 survey we received responses from 1,022,954,603 sites — nearly 31 million more than last month.

More than a billion websites

This is the first time the survey has exceeded a billion websites, a milestone achievement that was unimaginable two decades ago.

Netcraft's first ever survey was carried out over 19 years ago in August 1995. That survey found only 18,957 sites, although the first significant milestone of one million sites was reached in less than two years, by April 1997.

Fuelled by the dot-com bubble between 1997 and 2000, the survey reached nearly 10 million sites by the start of 2000. The active sites metric was added to our survey shortly afterwards, immediately showing that a significant proportion of websites were automatically generated, displaying identical tag structures, and used for activities such as holding pages, typo-squatting advertising providers, speculative domain registrants, and search-engine optimisation companies.

Rapid hostname growth has continued ever since, with the number of active sites increasing at a far gentler rate. Just under half of the hostnames in our June 2000 survey were active sites, whereas today, less than one in five are active — 178 million active sites in total.

Microsoft, Apache, and nginx

Microsoft and Apache currently take the lion's share of the web server market (just over 71% combined), while Microsoft edged into the lead for the first time in July 2014. Nginx has been steadily gaining share over the last 7 years, and is now used to serve just over 14% of all hostnames.

The view by number of active sites is very different, however. While Microsoft has seen a rapid growth in their hostname market share of around 20 percentage points since September 2011, there has been almost no change in their share of the active sites in this time. Nginx overtook Microsoft in terms of active sites in 2012, and today has a market share of 14.5% – more than 2 points ahead of Microsoft, whose web server software is used by only 11.9% of active sites. However, Apache truly dominates this market, with more than half of all active sites choosing to use Apache software.

Recently nginx has been seeing even greater gains in terms of web facing computers, doubling their market share in the last 2 years to just over 10% this month. Apache and Microsoft are continuing to experience increases in their number of web facing computers, however the growth is often far smaller than that of nginx. This month they gained just 323 and 414 computers respectively, compared to an increase of over 17k for nginx.

New top level domains

Dozens of new TLDs were added to the Root Zone during this month's survey, including .deals, .healthcare, .realtor, .auction, .yandex, .city and .lgbt. Recent additions which have now started to experience growth in the survey include .media, .services, .reisen, .pictures, .exchange and .toys. Each of these TLDs had only two or three sites last month, but all are now in their thousands.

The .xyz domain, which we mentioned last month, has outpaced all of the other new gTLDs after a Network Solutions promotion offering a free matching .xyz domain with each .com domain purchased. This month an additional 177,000 hostnames were found under this TLD, bringing the total number of .xyz sites up by 78% to 403,000. Even faster growth was seen among the .中国 (xn--fiqs8s) internationalised domain name for China, which grew by 181% to a total of 73,000 sites.

Total number of websites

Web server market share

DeveloperAugust 2014PercentSeptember 2014PercentChange
Microsoft367,805,41637.07%371,406,90936.31%-0.76
Apache346,702,99034.94%355,925,98534.79%-0.15
nginx135,037,73813.61%144,717,67014.15%0.54
Google20,076,8902.02%19,499,1541.91%-0.12
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August 2014 Web Server Survey

In the August 2014 survey we received responses from 992,177,228 sites — four million fewer than last month.

Despite losing more than six million hostnames and its lead over Apache shrinking to 2.13 percentage points, Microsoft managed to retain the top spot it snatched from Apache last month. Many of the lost hostnames that were using Microsoft IIS belonged to a single Chinese link farm; these sites typically last just a few months and so such volatility in the number of hostnames is no surprise. Apache was the only major server vendor to gain hostnames, adding more than 780,000.

Web Server Developer - Market Share of Computers

The number of web-facing computers, on the other hand, is less susceptible to fluctuations, representing the install base of each server vendor.

Web server market share for computers

DeveloperJuly 2014PercentAugust 2014PercentChange
Apache2,321,14147.92%2,338,92747.83%-0.09
Microsoft1,512,93331.24%1,515,67431.00%-0.24
nginx460,7959.51%478,7939.79%0.28

Whilst nginx lost more than six million hostnames — many from link farms of a similar nature to those using IIS albeit on a smaller scale — the number of web-facing computers running the open-source web server grew by almost 18,000. Although nginx had the largest growth this month, Apache was not far behind, growing by almost 17,800 web-facing computers. Despite this growth, Apache's share of web-facing computers fell slightly, though it retains its lead over Microsoft by a comfortable margin (47.8% vs 31%).

Although all of the major server vendors have experienced regular and steady growth in the web-facing computers metric, they have often been outpaced by nginx. Both Apache and IIS have seen a slow decline in market share as a result, losing 0.9 and 2.4 percentage points respectively over the last year. nginx's share of web-facing computers is now just shy of 10%, almost double its share in August 2012.

DigitalOcean opens London data centre

Cloud hosting provider DigitalOcean has seen tremendous growth over the past 18 months, and this month became the 5th largest hosting provider in terms of web-facing computers. More than half of all Digital Ocean droplets are running Apache, and a further 43% use nginx.

In July, DigitalOcean opened a new data centre in London, its third data centre in Europe. If the growth rate of their Singapore data centre is anything to go by, DigitalOcean could soon become one of the largest hosting providers in the UK.

Less than a month after opening their Singapore data centre in February 2014, DigitalOcean became the 8th largest provider in Singapore. Half a year later, DigitalOcean is now the second largest hosting provider in Singapore, with a total 4,900 computers, trailing only Amazon, which has more than 12,000 web-facing computers.

Explosive growth on .xyz

The biggest gain among the new gTLDs was on .xyz, which entered general availability on July 2nd. In just over a month, .xyz has grown by 225,000 hostnames, and is already the largest of the new gTLDs by both hostnames and domains. Almost all the growth appears to be the result of a Network Solutions promotion which offers a free matching .xyz domain with each .com domain purchased. Almost 200,000 of these new hostnames resolve to a single IP address, which shows a Network Solutions domain holding page.

Other large growths among the new gTLDs include .berlin which gained 85,500 hostnames, .club (+9,700), and .events (+5,500).

Microsoft using Brazilian IP address space in US

Microsoft recently opened an Azure data centre in São Paulo, making its first foray into South America. Shortly after the data centre was opened, some Azure users began noticing that their virtual machines were being assigned Brazilian IP addresses despite not using the new Brazilian data centre. Microsoft attributed this behaviour to its dwindling supply of available IPv4 address space, particularly in the United States. This month, almost 9,000 hostnames were found on 1,600 Brazilian IP addresses despite being hosted in one of Microsoft's other Azure data centres.

Total number of websites
 
Web server market share
 
Developer July 2014 Percent August 2014 Percent Change
Microsoft 373,869,026 37.53% 367,805,416 37.07% -0.46
Apache 345,921,550 34.73% 346,702,990 34.94% 0.22
nginx 141,041,852 14.16% 135,037,738 13.61% -0.55
Google 20,511,505 2.06% 20,076,890 2.02% -0.04
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July 2014 Web Server Survey

In the July 2014 survey we received responses from 996,106,380 sites.

Microsoft gained 22 million sites this month, helping to increase its market share by 1.18 percentage points. Combined with a 1.78 point loss in Apache's market share, Microsoft is now the new market leader with a 37.5% share of all sites.

In the early days of the web, hostnames were a good indication of actively managed content providing information and services to the Internet community. Today, hostnames are used for a wide range of activities, including holding pages produced at the point of customer acquisition by domain registration or hosting service companies, typo-squatting advertising providers, speculative domain registrants, and search-engine optimisation companies. Where wildcard DNS is used, the vast majority of the hostnames will not receive visitors, and the resources required to run the sites are minimal.

iis-share
The IIS market share growth in hostnames has not been reflected in our other metrics

Our active sites metric shows just how significant an influence automatically generated sites can have on the number of hostnames found by the survey for all server vendors. Apache remains the clear leader by number of active sites, and has been ever since we started using this additional metric in 2000. Over half of the world's active sites use Apache; a total of more than 91 million active sites, compared with Microsoft's 21 million.

Microsoft now leads in hostnames, but Apache is still far ahead in terms of active sites.

Microsoft’s most recent growth in hostnames since mid-2013 has, for the most part, been caused by a large number of Chinese linkfarms (泛站群). The sites in question provide advertising for gambling sites, online product listings, and normally make use of affiliate schemes. Yet they are hosted in the USA, on generic TLDs such as .com and .net to bypass China’s TLD and internet content provider (ICP) license requirements. Unusually, each linkfarm makes use of a reasonably large number of domains and IP addresses, presumably making them harder for search engines to evade. This would normally be cost prohibitive for this kind of activity, however hosting and domain packages can be found advertised on auction sites specifically for this purpose, with packages of (random/unspecified) .com domains available for as little as ¥17 (~ £2 / $3) each, guaranteed to remain yours for at least a month. It is not clear why IIS has been chosen for these sites, however it does have a considerably higher market share (for all of our metrics) in China compared to worldwide - for example 59% of domains hosted in China use IIS compared to just 29% worldwide.

In just over a year IIS has gained over 236 million hostnames (+172%) while only gaining 503k active sites (+2%). The number of web-facing computers running IIS websites has increased by just over 30k (+2%), compared to Apache’s 171k growth (+8%), and nginx’s 159k growth (+53%), resulting in a 2.4 percentage point loss in market share for IIS by this metric.

computer-share
 
 
Developer June 2014 Percent July 2014 Percent Change
Microsoft 352,208,487 36.35% 373,869,026 37.53% 1.18
Apache 353,672,431 36.50% 345,921,550 34.73% -1.78
nginx 133,763,494 13.81% 141,041,852 14.16% 0.35
Google 20,192,595 2.08% 20,511,505 2.06% -0.02
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June 2014 Web Server Survey

In the June 2014 survey we received responses from 968,882,453 sites, six million less than last month.

The battle between Microsoft and Apache heated up this month, with Apache losing 13 million sites and Microsoft gaining 26 million. The resultant changes in market share have left Apache barely clinging onto the lead — Microsoft is now only 0.15 percentage points behind. This is the closest Microsoft has ever been, giving it a good chance of taking the lead for the first time next month.

However, Apache continues to dominate in terms of active sites, i.e. sites which are actively managed by humans rather than being automatically generated for use in activities such as link farming and domain squatting. Under this metric, Apache's losses were less significant, still leaving it with more than half of the market share, and more than 36 percentage points ahead of its closest competitor, nginx.

In terms of all websites, nginx suffered the second largest loss of 8.6 million sites. nginx is very often used as a reverse proxy, although other web servers can also fulfill this role. Apache's mod_proxy module allows it to be configured as either a forward or reverse proxy, and Microsoft IIS can be configured to act as a reverse proxy with the URL Rewrite and Application Request Routing modules. Microsoft Azure Web Sites can also achieve the same functionality once the proxy feature has been enabled.

Tengine, which is based on nginx, also fell by three million sites this month. This web server software is used extensively by its originators, Taobao, and has been an open source project since 2011. Tengine supports all of the features of nginx 1.4.7, plus some additional features which are not present in the stable releases of nginx 1.4.x or 1.6.x, such as syslog and pipe support. However, the most recent mainline version (nginx 1.7.1), which was released on 27 May, does now allow the error_log and access_log directives to be logged to syslog.

IPv4 addresses nearing total exhaustion

On 20 May, ICANN announced that it had begun the process of allocating the remaining blocks of IPv4 addresses to the five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs). As the total number of available 32-bit IPv4 addresses dwindles, network operators are being encouraged to adopt the use of 128-bit IPv6 addresses, which will allow a significantly larger number of unique addresses: IPv4 can only provide 4.3 billion addresses, whereas IPv6 can provide nearly 8×1028 times as many.

Unfortunately, adoption of IPv6 is proving to be a slow process. Only 3% of the hostnames in this month's survey can be resolved to IPv6 addresses, and the total number of IPv6 addresses used by websites has increased by only 18% over the past 12 months.

ICANN's statement says the process of allocating the remaining blocks was triggered when Latin America and Caribbean Network Information Centre's (LACNIC) supply of IPv4 addresses dropped to below 8 million.

Topically, this month's survey saw ICANN's website at www.icann.org change its Server banner from Apache to BigIP. For the past few years, it had either been "Apache" or "Apache/2.2.3 CentOS", although the operating system has consistently been identified as F5 BIG-IP throughout. Adobe's community forums at forums.adobe.com also switched to BigIP this month, from Apache-Coyote/1.1.





DeveloperMay 2014PercentJune 2014PercentChange
Apache366,262,34637.56%353,672,43136.50%-1.05
Microsoft325,854,05433.41%352,208,48736.35%2.94
nginx142,426,53814.60%133,763,49413.81%-0.80
Google20,685,1652.12%20,192,5952.08%-0.04
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May 2014 Web Server Survey

In the May 2014 survey we received responses from 975,262,468 sites — 16 million more than last month.

Microsoft threatening Apache's market lead

Microsoft gained nine million additional sites this month, increasing its market share by a further 0.37 percentage points. Meanwhile, despite gaining 4.3 million sites, Apache's market share fell by 0.18 points. Although Apache still leads with 37.6% of all sites, Microsoft is now just 4.1 percentage points behind. Apache has been the most commonly used web server for more than 18 years, but this is the closest Microsoft has ever been to threatening this position.

Apache's position is much stronger when considering only Active Sites — it retains an absolute majority of 52.3%, and second place is held by nginx (14.4%), rather than Microsoft (11.3%). By excluding much of the automatically-generated content present on the internet, the Active Sites metric better reflects web server market share amongst human-maintained web sites.

New releases of nginx

The total number of websites using nginx fell by 3.7 million this month; however, the losses were mostly isolated to just a few hosting companies. Nearly two million nginx sites disappeared at cloud hosting company Enzu, followed by 1.2 million at BurstNet. Within the top million sites, however, nginx was the only web server to grow — Microsoft, Apache, and Google all lost market share.

A new stable version of nginx was released on April 24. nginx 1.6.0 features SPDY 3.1 support and various SSL improvements that were originally implemented in the 1.5.x mainline branch of releases. The previous mainline branch has also been superseded by nginx 1.7.0, which added support for backend SSL certificate verification and support for SNI while working with SSL backends.

Seven million new sites using Microsoft IIS

Nearly seven million of this month's new websites are using Microsoft IIS. Around 11 thousand of these new sites are hosted on the Microsoft Azure platform (including a few phishing sites), helping to maintain Microsoft's position as the largest Windows hosting company in terms on web-facing computers. Most of the new IIS sites at Azure are hosted in the US, with more than a third of the total being hosted in the North Central US Azure region alone.

Notably, www.apachelounge.com is one of this month's websites which appears to have switched to Microsoft IIS. The Apache Lounge is a web forum primarily focused on running Apache in Windows environments, and has provided Windows Apache binaries for more than 10 years. The site understandably has a long history of being hosted from an Apache web server, most recently on a Windows Server 2008 platform, but is now using Microsoft IIS 8.5 on Windows Server 2012.

All may not be as it seems, however, as the web server is still sending an X-Powered-By: Apache/2.4.9 (Win64) header. The web server is also reporting X-Powered-By: ARR/2.5, indicating the use of IIS's load-balancing features. It is likely that Apache Lounge is powered by multiple Apache instances which are hidden behind a Microsoft IIS load balancer.

New gTLDs showing promising growth

Several more new generic top-level domains have shown rapid growth in this month's survey. The .berlin gTLD, which was used by only two websites in last month's survey, is now used by 40,000 websites. The domain started its sunrise registration period on February 14, when trademark owners were able to register .berlin domains ahead of the March 16 deadline.

German news magazine Der Spiegel – one of Europe's largest publications of its kind – criticised the availability of .berlin and other new top-level domains, likening them to a housing bubble and suggesting that such domain names are a waste of money. The company behind the .berlin domain, dotBERLIN GmbH & Co. KG, was quick to reply pointing out that not only had Der Spiegel applied for its own gTLD (.spiegel) two years ago, but it had also already registered the domain name spiegel.berlin before its own article was published.

The .email gTLD is another one that has been thriving since the closure of its sunrise period: More than 12 thousand websites are now using .email, compared with only two last month. This gTLD is one of many operated by Donuts Inc, and became generally available on March 19.  Donuts applied to ICANN for more than 300 TLDs in 2012, 65 of which are already generally available for registration, including .support, .domains, .photos, .estate, .guru and .plumbing. A further 66 TLDs are scheduled for general availability between now and September, including .expert, .parts, .media, .toys, .wtf and .fail.





DeveloperApril 2014PercentMay 2014PercentChange
Apache361,853,00337.74%366,262,34637.56%-0.18
Microsoft316,843,69533.04%325,854,05433.41%0.37
nginx146,204,06715.25%142,426,53814.60%-0.64
Google20,983,3102.19%20,685,1652.12%-0.07
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