October 2019 Web Server Survey

In the October 2019 survey we received responses from 1,300,884,420 sites across 241,553,033 unique domain names and 9,045,029 web-facing computers. This reflects a gain of 9.71 million sites, 421,000 domains and a loss of 23,000 computers.

Amongst the largest web server vendors, only nginx and Google gained sites this month with the two vendors increasing by 5.67 million (+1.34%) and 1.80 million (+5.45%) sites respectively, whilst Apache and Microsoft lost 2.14 million (-0.57%) and 6.77 million (-3.56%) sites.

nginx was in fact the only major web server vendor to see increases in most metrics this month, with gains in domains (+480,000), web-facing computers (+12,000), and top million websites (+472).

Apache saw substantially the largest loss of domains, dropping by 762,000 (-1.04%), with Microsoft following with a smaller drop of 125,000 (-0.26%). These losses were largely offset by increases in domains using other smaller vendors, such as Cloudflare and Tengine, both of which are based on nginx.

In terms of web-facing computers, Microsoft saw the largest loss of 56,000 (-3.46%), followed by Apache which dropped 15,000 (-0.46%). A large proportion of Microsoft's loss came at hosting provider Cloud Innovation which appeared to switch many sites to Tengine.

Total number of websites


Web server market share


Developer September 2019 Percent October 2019 Percent Change
nginx 422,048,243 32.69% 427,719,289 32.88% 0.19
Apache 374,739,321 29.02% 372,604,250 28.64% -0.38
Microsoft 189,991,312 14.71% 183,224,187 14.08% -0.63
Google 33,058,930 2.56% 34,861,968 2.68% 0.12
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September 2019 Web Server Survey

In the September 2019 survey we received responses from 1,291,178,101 sites across 241,131,705 unique domain names and 9,068,313 web-facing computers. This reflects a gain of 19 million sites, 1.69 million domains and 119,000 computers.

All major vendors gained sites this month. The largest gain was for nginx with an increase of 20.6 million sites, followed by Microsoft (+2.9 million), Google (+2.1 million) and Apache (+462,000). This extends nginx's lead as the largest web server vendor by number of sites; it gained 1.12 percentage points taking it to a 32.7% market share. nginx also showed the largest gains in number of unique domains and web-facing computers.

The largest gain within the top million sites this month was by LiteSpeed, which also saw gains in hostnames, domains, and web-facing computers. The September survey saw 1,422 more sites within the top million using this light-weight Apache alternative, an 8.0% increase. This was accompanied by increases of 480,000 sites (+2.6%), 326,000 domains (+9.4%) and 1,665 web-facing computers (+8.1%).

There are losses in market share for both Apache and nginx as the largest server vendors by number of active sites. Apache lost 22,000 active sites while nginx gained 915,000; due to large gains elsewhere this amounted to Apache losing 0.94pp and nginx losing 0.11pp. Google gained 800,000 active sites and 0.16pp of market share to retake third place from Cloudflare; Cloudflare gained 591,000 sites. The largest increase of active sites was in sites running openresty with an increase of 1.04 million.

Web Server Releases

Apache 2.4.41 was released on August 14th bringing several security fixes. This is the first release of Apache 2.4 since 2.4.39 was released on April 1st.

OpenLiteSpeed released a major new feature in version 1.6.0 on September 10th adding support for QUIC and HTTP/3 as well as a new one-click build tool and support for more platforms.

Both OpenResty and Tengine released versions incorporating the nginx patches that fix the HTTP/2 related security issues discussed in last month's blog. OpenResty version 1.15.8.2 was released on September 8th and Tengine 2.3.2 released on August 20th.

Total number of websites

Web server market share

DeveloperAugust 2019PercentSeptember 2019PercentChange
nginx401,454,02931.56%422,048,24332.69%1.12
Apache374,277,24329.43%374,739,32129.02%-0.40
Microsoft187,109,42314.71%189,991,31214.71%0.00
Google30,969,2592.43%33,058,9302.56%0.13
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August 2019 Web Server Survey

In the August 2019 survey we received responses from 1,271,920,923 sites across 239,441,736 unique domain names and 8,948,887 web-facing computers. This reflects a large loss of 124 million sites, but a gain of 1.30 million domains and 10,700 computers.

All major vendors lost active sites this month, and of those, only Google made a gain in sites (+1.58 million). Microsoft lost the largest number of active sites (-2.03 million), while nginx lost the most sites (-81.4 million, -16.9%) but remains in the lead with a 31.6% share of all sites.

Despite losing so many sites, nginx showed the strongest growth in unique domains, web-facing computers, and among the top million sites. This bears more significance than the more unpredictable changes in the site counts, which are prone to fluctuations month-on-month as link farms, spam networks and other low-value web content comes and goes.

With a gain of 58,500 web-facing computers, nginx now has more than 31% of the computer market share – just 5.39 percentage points behind Apache – while Microsoft has lost 65,000 computers. As is evident in the graphs, counting web-facing computers provides the most stable metric and makes long term trends easy to spot. In particular, the clear and consistent rise in nginx's market share and the steady decline of Apache makes it hard not to imagine nginx taking the market lead from Apache by early next year.

The number of top-million websites powered by nginx has increased by 1,292, while Apache's count fell by 3,101. Apache maintains the lead in this market, but is now only 5.92 percentage points ahead of nginx. Apache also continues to lead in terms of unique domains, despite losing 784,000 this month. It has a similar lead over nginx, which is now only 5.32 percentage points behind Apache after gaining 753,000 domains.

Microsoft lost counts in almost all metrics this month, apart from where it gained 166,000 domains, although this still resulted in a small drop in its domain market share. The sites market is the only one where its share did not fall, despite losing 16.6 million sites.

Netflix finds nginx vulnerabilities

nginx 1.61.1 stable and nginx 1.17.3 mainline were released on 13th August, in order to address three HTTP/2 security issues that could cause excessive memory consumption and CPU usage. All versions between 1.9.5 – 1.17.2 are affected, but only if HTTP/2 is enabled. These security issues were discovered by Jonathan Looney at Netflix, which chose to use nginx when developing its own globally distributed content delivery network, known as Netflix Open Connect.

The content delivery network consists of Open Connect Appliances, which run the FreeBSD operating system and use nginx to stream audio and video directly to Netflix customers. Most of this content is served from appliances hosted by ISPs, rather than across the internet, which leads to better performance whilst vastly reducing the amount of peered traffic when huge numbers of customers worldwide stream a popular show at the same time. Thousands of ISPs have enthusiastically participated in this program because it is free to connect to the Open Connect network, and it prevents Netflix traffic from taking up a significant amount of an ISP's internet capacity.

FreeBSD is dying?!

Netflix chose FreeBSD for its balance of stability and features (as did Netcraft once upon a time), but it is becoming an increasingly less common frontend operating system on the web as a whole. Only 60,200 (0.67%) web-facing computers are running FreeBSD today. To put this into perspective, more than twice as many servers are still running Windows Server 2003, even though it has not been supported for several years.

Linux is by far the most commonly used operating system for web-facing computers. It is installed on 6.64 million (74.2%) servers, and at least 1.05 million of these can be positively identified as running the Ubuntu distribution.

Naturally, the choice of operating system depends to some extent on what type of web server will be running on it, and vice versa. For example, it is no surprise that most instances of Microsoft IIS can be found running on Windows Server, and most instances of Windows Server are used to run Microsoft IIS; but it is clear that the Linux operating system is especially favoured for some web servers. Between 92% and 96% of all web-facing computers that use each of nginx, Apache, Litespeed and lighttpd can be found running Linux.

AWS ELB overtakes Beaver

The awselb (Amazon Web Services Elastic Load Balancing) web server was found on 69,800 web-facing computers this month, overtaking Beaver to become the fourth most commonly used frontend server by computers. Practically all of these machines appear to be running Linux, and are responsible for hosting 464,000 sites across 48,500 unique domains.

ELB achieves fault tolerance and scalability by automatically distributing incoming application traffic across multiple targets – and can even spread it across multiple AWS Availability Zones – so the 69,800 AWS ELB servers exposed to the internet are likely to be only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the AWS infrastructure used by each website.

Total number of websites

Web server market share

DeveloperJuly 2019PercentAugust 2019PercentChange
nginx482,877,27534.59%401,454,02931.56%-3.03
Apache387,366,82627.75%374,277,24329.43%1.68
Microsoft203,673,34414.59%187,109,42314.71%0.12
Google29,385,0652.11%30,969,2592.43%0.33
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July 2019 Web Server Survey

In the July 2019 survey we received responses from 1,395,897,118 sites across 238,145,990 unique domain names and 8,938,144 web-facing computers. This reflects gains of 62.5 million sites, 1.15 million domains, and 98,000 computers.

nginx continues to extend its lead at the top of the list of web server vendors by total number of sites: it has gained 43.3 million sites since the June 2019 survey, bringing its total to 483 million. It now leads second-place Apache by 6.84 percentage points.

nginx has achieved the milestone of serving more than a third of sites in the survey. It becomes the fourth web server to achieve this in the 24 years since Netcraft's Web Server Survey began in August 1995. At that time NCSA [archive.org] - one of the very earliest web servers - served 53% of all sites. NCSA was quickly replaced by Apache, which passed the one-third milestone in June 1996 and continued to serve more than a third of sites until February 2016. Microsoft have served more than a third of sites for four separate periods most recently falling below a third in January 2019.

Unusually, nginx did not fare as well in any of the other metrics this month, losing out in both absolute numbers and market share in terms of domains (-4.0 million, -1.81pp), active sites (-1.2 million, -1.00pp) and in the top million busiest sites (-9,300, -0.93pp). The drops in domains and active sites are accounted for by large changes at two hosting providers; 2.8 million domains hosted by Endurance International Group moved from using nginx to Apache, and 1.5 million domains and 1.4 million active sites hosted by ecommerce provider Shopify now identify as using cloudflare. nginx also lost a small amount of market share of web-facing computers (-0.10pp) despite gaining 21,300 in absolute terms. These losses buck the trend of recent months that has seen nginx gaining market share from Apache and Microsoft.

Apache gained both the largest number of domains and the largest number of active sites since the June survey with increases of 2.2 million and 2.1 million respectively. Microsoft gained the largest number of web-facing computers with an increase of 43,200.

Cloudflare's web server moves up another place into fourth this month after gaining 4.7 million sites to bring its total to 39.9 million. It serves 9.5 million more sites than fifth placed openresty, but stands well behind the 190 million sites served by Microsoft's IIS. The 39.9 million sites served using Cloudflare are spread across 15.2 million unique domains, 2.6 sites per domain, a significantly smaller number of sites per domain than the top three placed web servers. Nginx has 8.2 sites per domain, Apache has 5.3, and Microsoft IIS has 9.3; the total for all sites in the survey is 5.8 sites per domain.

Envoy - the open source edge and service proxy for cloud-native applications, which leapt up to the tenth largest web server by sites in the May survey - has dropped over 200 places and is only seen hosting 13,000 sites in the July survey. This comes as a result of Squarespace sites no longer identifying themselves as using Envoy, but rather announcing "Squarespace" as the web server. Squarespace is the eleventh largest web server by number of sites with 5.2 million sites on 2.8 million unique domains; the seventh largest number of domains.

Total number of websites

Web server market share

DeveloperJune 2019PercentJuly 2019PercentChange
nginx439,626,71332.97%482,877,27534.59%1.62
Apache374,360,94928.08%387,366,82627.75%-0.32
Microsoft205,235,29115.39%203,673,34414.59%-0.80
Google28,181,7442.11%29,385,0652.11%-0.01
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June 2019 Web Server Survey

In the June 2019 survey we received responses from 1,333,421,275 sites across 236,991,999 unique domain names and 8,840,331 web-facing computers. This reflects gains of 6.76 million sites, 1.98 million domains, and 113,000 computers.

nginx has further extended its lead in the hostnames metric, with 52.2 million additional sites pushing its total up to 440 million. Since overtaking Apache in April, nginx has already built up a 4.89 percentage point lead over Apache's market share and is not far off accounting for more than one third of all sites.

Apache retains the lead in all other metrics, but for how long? The proportion of unique domains that are served by Apache has fallen to 30.1%, while nginx snapped up the majority of this month's net domain growth, bringing its share to within 3.4 percentage points of Apache's. There has been a clear trend of Apache's domain market share decreasing, while nginx's increases and looks likely to overtake Apache within a year. A similar trend is evident in web-facing computers and among the top million sites, so it may not be long before nginx steals more of the limelight.

Reports of a remote code execution vulnerability in most recent versions of nginx were downplayed by its developers, who claimed that neither of the two overflow vulnerabilities appeared to be generally exploitable. Both bugs affected the njs scripting language implementation that allows nginx's functionality to be extended; one bug was fixed in njs 0.3.2, which was released on 21 May along with nginx 1.17.0, while the other bug is expected to be fixed in the future release of njs 0.3.3.

Several other product updates were also released during May, including NGINX Unit 1.9.0, lighttpd 1.4.54, LiteSpeed Web Server 5.3.8 (Stable), OpenLiteSpeed 1.5.1, and cPanel & WHM 80. The latest version of cPanel & WHM adds the ability to run Node.js applications, manage API tokens to allow resellers and third-party developers to run API functions, and ensure visitors are redirected to the secure HTTPS versions of sites.

Envoy – the open source edge and service proxy for cloud-native applications, which leapt to prominence in last month's survey – remains in tenth place with around 5 million sites, which are spread across 2.7 million unique domain names.

Cloudflare's web server has moved up into fifth place after gaining more than 5 million websites, giving it a total of 35.1 million sites across 12.9 million domains. The Cloudflare server is used by the edge nodes of Cloudflare's content delivery network, which now serves 2.6% of all sites in this month's survey.

Microsoft saw losses in every metric this month, apart from web-facing computers, where it made a gain of 13,600; however, this was not enough to stop its market share falling slightly, while Apache gained 17,300 computers and nginx gained 64,000.

Total number of websites

Web server market share

DeveloperMay 2019PercentJune 2019PercentChange
nginx387,416,88929.20%439,626,71332.97%3.77
Apache385,685,25229.07%374,360,94928.08%-1.00
Microsoft250,440,88718.88%205,235,29115.39%-3.49
Google27,711,3752.09%28,181,7442.11%0.02
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May 2019 Web Server Survey

In the May 2019 survey we received responses from 1,326,664,693 sites across 235,011,143 unique domain names and 8,726,985 web-facing computers. Although this reflects a gain of 1.12 million domains and 113,000 computers, there has been a loss of 119 million sites.

This month's relatively large drop in sites (-8.2%) includes a 10.3 million reduction in the number of websites that are served by nginx, just a month after it became the first vendor other than Microsoft and Apache to serve the largest number of websites over the past 23 years. As Apache lost only 696,000 sites this month, nginx is now only 1.73 million sites ahead, with a market share of 29.20% compared with Apache's 29.07%.

The sites metric has been particularly volatile for Microsoft, which was within two percentage points of Apache's share last month; but this month, it suffered a significant loss of 112 million (-30.8%) sites, leaving it more than 10 points behind with a market share of 18.9%.

Despite losing more than 10 million sites, nginx has outperformed every vendor in all other headline metrics this month – this includes a gain of 939,000 active sites, 1.06 million domains, 63,800 web-facing computers, and an additional 2,120 sites within the top-million websites. Apache continues to lead in all of these metrics, while nginx is in second place and closing, increasing its market share while Apache's declines.

Apache lost 4,330 entries from the top million sites this month, decreasing its share of that market to 31.8%, but leaving it still more than 5 percentage points ahead of nginx. Some of the highest-traffic users of Apache include FedEx, Orange, Slack, Adobe and Ubuntu, while prominent users of nginx include the likes of DuckDuckGo, the BBC, GitLab, and the bit.ly short link service.

The highest-traffic site, www.google.com, uses the in-house gws (Google Web Server), which is also used by many other top-million Google websites, including Google Maps and dozens of country-specific variants of the main search site – like google.de and google.nl.

Envoy

A relatively unfamiliar server called envoy has suddenly leapt into 10th place by sites after experiencing 500-fold growth, increasing its website count from just 10,300 to 5.10 million sites across 2.71 million distinct domains. The majority of these sites are hosted by SquareSpace, which provides easy-to-use website and online store building services that feature drag-and-drop layouts with ready-made templates.

Envoy is an open source edge and service proxy designed for cloud-native applications. It was originally built by the transportation network company Lyft, but Squarespace is now by far the most visible user of the product. Squarespace engineers pursued a self-service infrastructure with Kubernetes to handle the complexity of their software, but to keep up with growth and demand, they started integrating the Envoy proxy into their system more than a year ago to build a service mesh control plane – a policy that turns a set of isolated stateless sidecar proxies into a distributed system.

While this is the first survey in which Envoy has been seen en masse at Squarespace, it is possible that they have already been using it for a number of months without revealing the envoy server header.

cPanel

This month's survey also saw cPanel advance to 9th place with a total of 7.35 million sites. cPanel is a Linux-based web hosting control panel that provides a graphical interface for administering websites via a secure service on port 2083. Most cPanel-administered websites exhibit the bare cPanel server banner on HTTP port 80, but there are also 5.77 million Apache-powered sites that reveal the use of cPanel via Server headers similar to Apache/2.4.39 (cPanel) OpenSSL/1.0.2r mod_bwlimited/1.4.

While the cPanel interface is aimed at individual end users or hosting customers, the associated WHM (WebHost Manager) interface allows hosting providers to manage large numbers of cPanel user accounts and add custom branding to their customers' dashboards. A slightly cheaper cPanel Solo product also provides most cPanel and WHM features to hosting providers or individuals with only a single server account to manage. These products have led to cPanel being found across a variety of hosting locations in more than 150 countries, ranging from more than 400,000 cPanel-powered sites operated by a single French hosting company, to a single cPanel-powered website in the whole of Zambia.

New web server releases

  • nginx 1.16.0 was released on 23 April 2019. In keeping with nginx tradition, this first release in the 1.16.x stable branch includes all of the new features and bug fixes that were introduced in the 1.15.x mainline branch – this means it has improved UDP proxying, support for TLS 1.3 early data and dynamic loading of TLS certificates amongst other features.

  • Envoy 1.10.0 was released on 5 April 2019, enabling TLS 1.3 on the server-side, and making a multitude of other changes and additions. The previous release, 1.9.1, addressed two vulnerabilities – CVE-2019-9900 and CVE-2019-9901– both of which could have allowed remote attackers to bypass access control rules.

  • GoDaddy is currently using DPS 1.6.0 to serve customer sites that have been created with its Website Builder tool. This server software continues to be updated fairly frequently: the sites were using DPS 1.5.11 when this month's survey data was originally collected, and DPS 1.5.7 during last month's survey.

Total number of websites

Web server market share

DeveloperApril 2019PercentMay 2019PercentChange
nginx397,728,88927.52%387,416,88929.20%1.68
Apache386,380,89326.73%385,685,25229.07%2.34
Microsoft362,109,19625.05%250,440,88718.88%-6.18
Google25,956,0801.80%27,711,3752.09%0.29
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