April 2016 Web Server Survey

In the April 2016 survey we received responses from 1,083,252,900 sites and 5,800,222 web-facing computers. This reflects a gain of nearly 80 million sites and 18,100 computers.

This is the largest number of sites the survey has ever seen, beating the previous maximum of 1,028,932,208 in October 2014. The number of web-facing computers is also at its largest, although this total has generally risen much more steadily than the number of sites.

Microsoft was the only major vendor to gain sites this month, and so it was solely responsible for this month's total reaching its highest value ever. Apache lost 33 million sites, while nginx and Google suffered much smaller losses. Many of the 124 million additional sites using Microsoft IIS are aimed at a Chinese audience. Several million are served from just a handful of IP addresses, using either IIS 6.0 or 7.5.

However, this proliferation of new Microsoft-powered websites is largely driven by automated processes. Many are "spam" sites that use link farming techniques to attract traffic. Although Microsoft's website count grew by a remarkable 38.9% in April, it lost 12,100 web-facing computers. High quality websites that attract genuine repeat traffic tend to have a very low number of sites per computer compared with the computers that are involved in link farming, which sometimes host millions of automatically-generated sites each. Corroborating this further, Microsoft suffered a loss of 341,000 active sites this month, taking its total down by 2.0%.

Meanwhile, nginx continued its relentless growth. It gained 19,500 web-facing computers this month (+2.4%), was the only major vendor to increase its active sites count, and increased its share within the top-million websites by 0.49 percentage points.

nginx is particularly prominent at Amazon and DigitalOcean, with the two hosting companies accounting for more than 25% of all nginx computers. In particular, nginx is the most commonly used server at DigitalOcean, being used by just under half of its web-facing droplets. At Amazon, despite its large share of all nginx computers, Apache is more than twice as common, with nginx only used on a quarter of EC2 instances.

Total number of websites

Web server market share

DeveloperMarch 2016PercentApril 2016PercentChange
Microsoft317,761,31831.65%441,470,89440.75%9.10
Apache325,285,18532.40%292,043,54826.96%-5.44
nginx143,464,29314.29%143,349,43913.23%-1.06
Google20,790,7672.07%20,597,6051.90%-0.17
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March 2016 Web Server Survey

In the March 2016 survey we received responses from 1,003,887,790 sites and 5,782,080 web-facing computers. This reflects a gain of nearly 70 million sites, but a loss of 14,100 computers.

This is the second time the total number of sites has reached more than a billion. This milestone was first reached in September 2014, although it was short-lived: By November 2014, the total fell back below one billion, and had stayed that way until the current month. During the intervening period, the total fell as low as 849 million sites in April 2015.

The total number of websites is typically prone to large fluctuations. Domain holding companies, typo squatters, spammers and link farmers can cause millions of sites to be deployed in a short space of time, without any significant outlay, but these types of site are intrinsically uninteresting to humans. Netcraft's active sites metric counters the effect of these by discounting sites that appear to be automatically generated. This leads to a more-stable metric that better illustrates real, practical use of the web.

The number of active sites currently stands at just 171 million, meaning around 1 in 6 sites are active. The total fell by 764,000 this month, but nginx stands out as being the only major vendor to increase its active site count — by an impressive 699,000. This has increased its active sites share to 16.4%, while Apache's loss of nearly a million active sites took its leading share down to 49.2%.

Typifying nginx's rise amongst active sites, it also showed the only growth in web-facing computers amongst the major server vendors. This month's survey found more than 15,000 additional computers running nginx on the web, while Microsoft's loss of 30,000 computers was the primary cause of the overall loss in this metric. Thankfully, the majority of this decline consisted of Windows Server 2003 computers, which arguably helps improve the safety of the internet — this server software is no longer supported by Microsoft.

China accounts for over 30% of all web-facing computers that run Windows Server 2003, making it the largest user of this obsolete operating system; however, more than half of this month's Windows Server 2003 losses were seen in China, which has helped to bring this share down slightly.

Apache's computer growth was relatively modest at only 447 computers, but Microsoft's large loss caused Apache's market share to increase by 0.12 to 47.9%. nginx's gain of 15,000 computers took its market share up by 0.30 to 14.3%, but Microsoft remains a fair way ahead of nginx with a 26.6% share of the market.

Total number of websites

Web server market share

DeveloperFebruary 2016PercentMarch 2016PercentChange
Apache306,292,55732.80%325,285,18532.40%-0.39
Microsoft278,593,04129.83%317,761,31831.65%1.82
nginx137,459,39114.72%143,464,29314.29%-0.43
Google20,640,0582.21%20,790,7672.07%-0.14
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February 2016 Web Server Survey

In the February 2016 survey we received responses from 933,892,520 sites and 5,796,210 web-facing computers.

Microsoft has edged closer towards Apache, with an increase of 16.1 million sites bringing its total up by 6.14% to 279 million. Apache's relatively modest growth of 0.66% has put Microsoft within 3 percentage points of Apache's leading market share of 32.8%.

In terms of web-facing computers, Apache maintains a much clearer lead with a 47.8% share of the market. Microsoft also takes second place by this metric, albeit with a share that is more than 20 percentage points behind Apache. However, both Apache and Microsoft suffered small losses in market share as nginx continues to exhibit strong growth: This month, nginx gained 21,100 computers, increasing its market share by 0.26 points to 13.96%.

nginx 1.9.11 mainline was released on 9th February. This version introduced support for dynamic modules, enabling selective loading of both third-party and some native modules at runtime. In previous versions, nginx modules had to be statically linked into an nginx binary built from source, causing the module to be loaded every time even if it was not going to be used.

The latest version of Microsoft Internet Information Services, IIS 10.0, is still very rare in the wild, as its primary deployment platform (Windows Server 2016) has yet to be released. Fewer than 5,000 websites are currently using IIS 10.0, and these are being served either from technical preview versions of Windows Server 2016, or from Windows 10 machines.

The latest technical preview version of Windows Server 2016 also supports a headless deployment option known as Nano Server. This is a stripped-down version of Windows Server, without a graphical interface and a few other features that are not essential for modern web applications. As a result, it typically requires fewer updates to be installed – and consequently, fewer reboots, too.

Despite losing a small amount of market share, Apache also showed a reasonable growth of 15,600 computers. Similar to last month, a significant proportion of this growth was due to the appearance of more Western Digital My Cloud consumer storage devices.

The total number of My Cloud devices in the survey now stands at 583,400, which is 68,400 more than last month; however, the number of devices that are exposed directly to the internet grew by only 11,100.

Western Digital is using Amazon AWS to host the servers that proxy requests to My Cloud devices in Relay mode. Most of these relay servers have been configured to serve a few thousand devices each, and so the 331,000 devices that are currently using Relay mode contribute fewer than 200 computers towards Apache's total.

Interestingly, while most web-facing My Cloud devices are hosted in the US, more than half of the *.wd2go.com hostnames used by the relay servers are hosted in Amazon's EU regions.

Total number of websites

Web server market share

DeveloperJanuary 2016PercentFebruary 2016PercentChange
Apache304,271,06133.56%306,292,55732.80%-0.76
Microsoft262,471,88628.95%278,593,04129.83%0.88
nginx141,443,63015.60%137,459,39114.72%-0.88
Google20,799,0872.29%20,640,0582.21%-0.08
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January 2016 Web Server Survey

In the January 2016 survey we received responses from 906,616,188 sites and 5,753,264 web-facing computers, reflecting a modest increase of less than six million sites, but a significant gain of 174,000 computers.

Microsoft gained 22.5m sites (+9.40%), which has taken its market share up by 2.32 points. Meanwhile, Apache lost 16.4m sites, and nginx fell by 15.6m. Apache's market share is now less than 5 points ahead of Microsoft; this difference was more than twice as large just two months ago.

The web-facing computers metric is typically much more stable, but this month's overall gain of 174,000 computers is unusually large as a result of a 7.6% increase in the number of web-facing computers running Apache.

This large gain comprised of nearly 195,000 Apache computers, and the majority of these are Western Digital My Cloud personal storage devices. These consumer devices run web servers and can be accessed using public hostnames with a format similar to device1000000-a1b2c3d4.wd2go.com. Consumers can remotely access their files via the My Cloud web application, a mobile app, or via third-party applications that make use of the relatively new My Cloud OS 3 platform.

Consumers can remotely access their files via the My Cloud web application (shown), or via a mobile app.

Consumers can remotely access their files via the My Cloud web application (shown), a mobile app, or third-party tools.

More than 240,000 of these wd2go.com hostnames point directly to a variety of consumer broadband connections, which is where the My Cloud devices are physically located.

Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices are rarely exposed to the internet on such a large scale, and so this provides some otherwise invisible insights into the usage of these particular devices. Although consumers do not have to enable the Cloud Access feature, the 240,000+ devices that are directly exposed to the internet are likely to be a fairly representative sample of all similar Western Digital devices.

Nearly half of the My Cloud devices that are exposed directly to the internet are located in the US, while the UK has the next largest share of 13%, and France follows with 6%. This suggests that nearly two-thirds of Western Digital's consumer NAS sales take place in these three countries alone.

As well as the My Cloud devices that are exposed directly to the internet, a further 273,000 wd2go.com hostnames resolve to fewer than 200 IP addresses hosted by Amazon AWS. These hostnames likely represent additional My Cloud devices that have been cloud-enabled using Relay mode. In this mode, requests bound for the device are relayed via the Amazon-hosted web service, which makes it possible for a consumer to gain remote access even when they are not able to set up port forwarding on their router.

However, whilst certainly convenient, exposing a My Cloud device to the internet (either directly or in relay mode) could undermine a consumer's security by revealing the device's internal IP address to the whole world. Each of the 500,000+ My Cloud devices that can be accessed via hostnames like device1070698-xxxxxxxx.wd2go.com also have corresponding DNS entries that reveal their local IP addresses:

$ host device1070698-xxxxxxxx.wd2go.com
device1070698-xxxxxxxx.wd2go.com has address 78.72.xx.x
$ host device1070698-xxxxxxx-local.wd2go.com
device1070698-xxxxxxxx-local.wd2go.com has address 192.168.1.65

These "-local" DNS entries allow a remote attacker to discover the local IP address of a consumer's My Cloud device (in this case, 192.168.1.65), which would make it easier to carry out CSRF attacks against it. Even if the consumer has taken the precaution of changing the device's name so that his browser cannot reach it via the default local address (http://wdmycloud), it could still be reached by browsing directly to its local IP address. Devices that have not been updated recently might still be vulnerable to remote code execution via CSRF attacks.

The local IP address of the My Cloud device can also be used to infer the address of the consumer's broadband router, which may well be vulnerable to similar types of attack. Knowing some likely IP addresses of the router makes CSRF attacks much more feasible – for example, if the My Cloud device has an IP address of 10.10.0.31, the attacker could deduce that the router's IP address might be 10.10.0.1 or 10.10.0.255, rather than any of the other 17+ million IANA-reserved private network addresses. A successful exploit against a vulnerable router could give an attacker full control over the router's settings, which could ultimately lead to data theft or financial losses through pharming attacks.

While the influx of these My Cloud devices has resulted in strong growth for Apache, nginx continued its steady progress by gaining a further 23,300 (+3.0%) web-facing computers. Apache's market share in terms of computers now stands at 47.9% (+2.0), while Microsoft lost 20,600 computers, contributing to its share falling to 27.1%. Despite maintaining the consistent growth it has demonstrated for several years, nginx also suffered a minor loss in share by virtue of Apache's exceptional growth.

Total number of websites

Web server market share

DeveloperDecember 2015PercentJanuary 2016PercentChange
Apache320,676,75935.59%304,271,06133.56%-2.03
Microsoft239,927,01326.63%262,471,88628.95%2.32
nginx157,001,01817.43%141,443,63015.60%-1.82
Google20,362,6782.26%20,799,0872.29%0.03
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December 2015 Web Server Survey

In the December 2015 survey we received responses from 901,002,770 sites and 5,579,077 web-facing computers, reflecting a loss of 2.0 million sites, but a gain of 39,900 computers.

Apache suffered the largest loss of 13.4 million sites, followed by Microsoft, which lost 5.0 million. A good part of this month's overall losses were caused by expired .xyz domains, which resulted in nearly 9 million .xyz websites disappearing from the internet. Despite the widespread losses caused by the demise of these websites, nginx managed to gain 7.1 million sites overall, which was the largest growth seen by any web server vendor.

The .xyz top-level domain was made available to the general public on 2 June 2014 and immediately received strong support from Network Solutions, which registered nearly 100,000 .xyz domains during the first ten days of operation. Controversially, Network Solutions gave away many .xyz domains for free to customers who already had the corresponding domain under the .com TLD. This was done on an opt-out basis, and the domains were only free for the first year, leaving some customers surprised when each domain became due for renewal at a cost of $38 this year.

Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc, is one of the most notable users of the .xyz TLD with the domain abc.xyz, while some of the other popular .xyz sites include adult sites and torrent search engines. The .xyz TLD has also proven reasonably popular with fraudsters: Netcraft found phishing sites on 150 .xyz domains throughout November 2015.

This month's changes have caused Apache's leading market share to fall by 1.41 points to 35.6%, while nginx's site share has increased to 17.4%. A little over a year ago, Microsoft was in the lead, but has recently been floating around in second place, currently 9.2 percentage points ahead of nginx, and 9.0 behind Apache.

As well as gaining the largest number of sites this month, nginx also showed the largest growth in terms of web-facing computers, growing by 17,000 to reach a total of 765,000. Despite their site losses, Apache and Microsoft also gained a reasonable number of web-facing computers (10,400 and 6,100), while Lighttpd and Google suffered small losses.

A relatively unknown web server, Safedog, was found serving nearly ten times as many websites as last month, making it now the 7th most commonly used web server software with 6.3 million hostnames. However, the number of web-facing computers with Safedog installed is very low – less than 300 – and nearly all of these are running the deprecated Windows Server 2003 operating system. All websites using this Chinese server software claim to be running Safedog 4.0.0, which appears to be a cloud security system.

2015 has been a turbulent year in terms of hostnames, with the total number of sites rising from 877 million in January, to 901 million in December, but dipping as low as 849 million in April. Apache has continued to lead the market throughout the year, with Microsoft following in second place, getting to within 4.1 percentage points of Apache's share in October. In web-facing computers, nginx has shown remarkably consistent growth in its market share, while both Apache and Microsoft have declined. nginx is now installed on 13.71% of all web-facing computers, compared with 11.03% at the start of the year, and its market share within the top million sites has also grown noticeably from 21.09% to 24.29%.

Total number of websites

Web server market share

DeveloperNovember 2015PercentDecember 2015PercentChange
Apache334,095,10237.00%320,676,75935.59%-1.41
Microsoft244,906,58627.12%239,927,01326.63%-0.49
nginx149,967,73316.61%157,001,01817.43%0.82
Google19,622,6242.17%20,362,6782.26%0.09
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November 2015 Web Server Survey

In the November 2015 survey we received responses from 902,997,800 sites and 5,539,129 web-facing computers. This reflects a monthly gain of 24.7 million sites, and 47,200 computers.

This month's website growth was dominated by Apache, which gained nearly 31 million sites – more than eight times as many as nginx, which had the second largest growth amongst the top three. Helped by a loss of 22 million Microsoft-powered websites, Apache's market share has increased to 37%, with its lead over Microsoft more than doubling to 9.9 percentage points.

This sizeable shift in market shares can be mostly attributed to 17 million websites whose domain names became due for renewal. This caused them to be moved from IIS servers to a set of domain holding pages hosted on Apache servers.

Despite Apache also having the greatest growth in web-facing computers this month, with an increase of 23,405 computers, its market share grew by just 0.03 percentage points. In contrast, nginx's similar growth of 21,004 computers increased its market share by 0.27 percentage points.

The number of web-facing computers using each vendor's software serves as a more stable metric, due in part to the cost of provisioning machines. Conversely, website counts are more prone to large fluctuations, as a single computer can serve countless websites at little incremental cost.

Demonstrating this disconnect, Tengine – an nginx fork developed by Alibaba – made a significant contribution to the overall growth in hostnames despite being used on only 5,100 web-facing computers. While the number of sites using this server grew by nearly 30%, rising to 42 million, the number of active sites using Tengine actually fell by 5%.

nginx continues to increase its presence amongst the top million sites. It now powers an additional 2,708 of the top sites, with Apache, Microsoft and Google each losing out to make room. nginx also showed the largest active sites growth in November, growing by 1.6 million (+6.2%) to reach a total of 27.9 million.

Since the launch of Yunjiasu ("fast cloud") in December 2014, more than 2.5 million sites (and 108,000 active sites) are now being served by a modified version of nginx called yunjiasu-nginx, making it the 10th most commonly used web server software by hostnames. Most of this growth has taken place in the last few months, with the total number of sites using this server growing by more than 5x since August.

Yunjiasu is operated by Chinese search engine giant Baidu, in collaboration with CloudFlare, who are responsible for the similar cloudflare-nginx server that is currently used by more than 5 million sites. Baidu's Yunjiasu offers the same features and functionality as CloudFlare (CDN, DNS, DDoS protection, etc.), but it is optimised for performance and regulatory controls within China.

By combining Baidu's network of 17 mainland China data centers with CloudFlare's 47 data centers outside of China, it is possible to start addressing some of the performance issues that have been dampening the appeal of Chinese hosting companies. For example, the largest hosting company in China, Aliyun, only allows its customers to host websites within China, and although it provides its own CDN service, all of the nodes are also within China. Websites that are hosted in China, and available across the combined CloudFlare/Baidu network, will benefit from much greater availability and faster load times from outside of China. Symmetrically, websites that are hosted outside of China will load faster and become much more available within China.

One of the first customers to be served across Baidu's network was TechCrunch, whose local Chinese edition (techcrunch.cn) was previously only available about 50% of the time within mainland China. CloudFlare claims that it now achieves nearly 100% availability, with an average page load time of 2.5 seconds rather than 17. CloudFlare customers must explicitly opt in to enjoy the performance benefits of the China network: To overcome technical, economic and regulatory issues, Baidu operates all services within China, while CloudFlare operates all of those outside, and by default, no CloudFlare customer traffic will pass through the China network.

Total number of websites

Web server market share

DeveloperOctober 2015PercentNovember 2015PercentChange
Apache303,234,89734.53%334,095,10237.00%2.47
Microsoft267,012,32230.40%244,906,58627.12%-3.28
nginx146,229,30716.65%149,967,73316.61%-0.04
Google19,931,8622.27%19,622,6242.17%-0.10
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