October 2015 Web Server Survey

In the October 2015 survey we received responses from 878,269,546 sites and 5,491,917 web-facing computers. This reflects a drop of 14.5 million sites since last month, while the number of computers rose by 53,800.

nginx grew in all metrics this month – websites, active sites, web-facing computers, and its share of the top million sites. With a gain of 866,000 active sites, nginx has increased its market share in this metric beyond 15% for the first time.

nginx also made an impressive gain of 21,480 web-facing computers, outpacing Apache's increase of 12,629 and Microsoft's 4,606. nginx is now used by 727,000 web-facing computers around the world, but it still has a fair way to go before it encroaches on the dominance of Microsoft and Apache. More than twice as many computers are running Microsoft server software, while Apache is even further ahead with its 2.5 million computers giving it a 46% share of the market.

Increasing native support for HTTP/2

The latest mainline version of nginx (1.9.5) has ditched support for SPDY, replacing it with HTTP/2 via an experimental ngx_http_v2_module. The latest major release in the 2.4 stable branch of Apache also now supports HTTP/2 natively. Apache 2.4.17 was released on 13 October 2015, and includes a donated HTTP/2 implementation in the mod_http2 core module, which has similar configuration options to the existing mod_ssl module. HTTP/2 support was previously available since Apache 2.4.12 via the mod_h2 module, although this required the server source code to be patched.

HTTP/2 is the standardised successor of SPDY, on which it was based. The primary motivation for using either of these protocols is performance – compared with HTTP 1.1, both of the newer protocols offer reduced latency through methods like header compression, prioritisation, and allowing webpage elements to be requested in parallel over a single TCP connection.

However, widespread use of HTTP 1.1 is likely to continue for several more years at least, as most browser vendors only support HTTP/2 over encrypted TLS connections. This means the significantly greater number of non-HTTPS sites currently in existence will carry on using HTTP 1.1, even though the HTTP/2 standard is also defined for HTTP URLs.

Despite the potential performance benefits, less than 5% of all SSL certificates in Netcraft's October SSL Survey were found on web servers that supported SPDY or HTTP/2. However, 29% of SSL sites within the thousand most popular sites currently support SPDY or HTTP/2, while 8% of those within the top million sites do. The busiest sites have the most to gain by optimising their connections, so this distribution is not too surprising.

HTTP/2 is also supported by the latest version of Microsoft Internet Information Services, although with the production version of Windows Server 2016 yet to be released, it is not too surprising that IIS 10.0 was found being used by only 2,200 sites in this month's survey. Several of these sites are hosted by Microsoft, and although publicly accessible, the hostnames suggest they are test servers that mirror the functionality of existing Microsoft sites still running IIS 7.0 and IIS 7.5.

While Windows Server 2016 is likely to become the primary platform for IIS 10.0 on the internet, IIS 10.0 is also included in Windows 10, which is already available and has been offered as a free upgrade to many Windows users. Technical Preview versions of Windows Server 2016 are also currently available for evaluation. Some earlier versions of Windows, including Windows 7 Service Pack 1, can also run IIS 10.0 Express. This is a self-contained version that has all of the core capabilities of IIS 10.0, as well as some additional features to make it easier to develop and test websites.

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September 2015 Web Server Survey

In the September 2015 survey we received responses from 892,743,625 sites and 5,438,101 web-facing computers. Both of these key metrics grew this month, with net gains of 18 million sites and 47,000 computers.

Microsoft made by far the largest gain in hostnames this month, with an additional 33.6 million sites bringing its total up to 265 million. Combined with a 15.9 million loss in Apache-powered sites, the difference between Microsoft's and Apache's market shares has now halved: Microsoft's share went up by 3.22 percentage points to 29.68%, while Apache's fell by 2.55 to 34.96%, reducing Apache's lead to just over five percentage points.

However, September's growth in web-facing computers paints a different picture, with Apache's net gain of 19,800 computers being more than six times higher than Microsoft's. Despite this, both Microsoft and Apache lost market share this month, while nginx – which gained the most web-facing computers in September (+22,100) – grew its share to nearly 13%. With an additional 6.9 million sites bumping its site share up to 15.60%, nginx was the only major server vendor to increase its market share in both sites and computers this month.

Despite no longer being supported by Microsoft, the number of websites using Microsoft IIS 6.0 (which typically runs on Windows Server 2003) has since grown by 19% and accounted for much of the overall Microsoft hostname growth this month. 153 million websites are now using Microsoft IIS 6.0, compared with 129 million in July; however, the number of web-facing computers using IIS 6.0 has fallen by 6%, and the number of active sites fell by 16%.

China accounted for around a third of this month's overall growth in web facing computers, outpacing the growth seen in the United States and Germany by a factor of three. Even so, China was responsible for only a tiny fraction of this month's site growth. Microsoft Windows continues to be the preferred hosting platform for computers in China, where it is currently used by 42% of all web-facing computers and 43% of all sites. Astoundingly, over half of these Windows computers are running Windows Server 2003, and some Chinese hosting providers continue to provide new installations of this deprecated operating system.

Amongst the world's top million websites, nginx has continued to increase its market share and now powers more than twice as many sites as Microsoft. Apache's share has been steadily declining over the past few years mostly as a result of nginx's gains, but it looks set to remain the dominant server vendor within the top million for a while longer, as it is still used by more than twice as many sites as nginx.

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August 2015 Web Server Survey

In the August 2015 survey we received responses from 874,408,576 sites and 5,391,301 web-facing computers, representing a net gain of 25 million sites and 40,978 web-facing computers since last month.

Microsoft was responsible for much of the growth in web-facing computers this month, reversing the losses seen last month. This month there was an increase of 15,668 web-facing computers powered by Microsoft web server software, accompanied by a gain of 6.1 million sites. Microsoft has recovered some web-facing computer market share as a result of the increase; however, it remains on a gradual declining trend – it now stands at almost 2 percentage points below its share this time last year.

nginx performed well across all metrics again this month, gaining 3,421 sites in the top million sites, 6,491 web-facing computers, and 983,000 sites overall. nginx is the only vendor experiencing consistent increases in market share, and is now used by 22.61% of the top million sites, and 12.68% of web-facing computers.

Apache also made gains this month, with 1,243 additional web-facing computers and 2.3 million additional sites. However, it lost 4,775 sites in the top million sites, where its market share is now 47.78%. Despite the net gain in web-facing computers, Apache has again seen a small loss in its market share, which now stands at 46.26%.

LiteSpeed gained 486,000 sites this month, bringing the total number of sites using LiteSpeed's web server to just over 5 million. LiteSpeed uses the same configuration format as Apache and is designed to be a drop-in replacement.

LiteSpeed was the first major web server vendor to add support for the final version of HTTP/2 after it was standardised in May. HTTP/2, which is based on Google's SPDY protocol, aims to improve the performance of HTTP by changing how it is encoded on the wire. It does not change HTTP's semantics to ease compatibility with existing applications. While the standard defines a cleartext version of the protocol, all major browsers only support HTTP/2 over TLS. Out of the 45,819 SSL sites that negotiated the final version of HTTP/2 over TLS this month, 21,695 (47.35%) were served by LiteSpeed.

An initial patch was released by nginx this month for adding HTTP/2 support. The patch is still in development – full HTTP/2 support in nginx is expected by the end of 2015.

Microsoft IIS 10 is the first release of IIS that provides HTTP/2 support. IIS 10 is included in Windows 10, which was released in July, and Windows Server 2016, which is currently in public beta testing and expected to be released in early 2016.

mod_h2, an Apache module which provides HTTP/2 support, was donated to the Apache Foundation in June and merged into the development version of Apache. mod_h2 will be backported to Apache 2.4, the current stable release branch.

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July 2015 Web Server Survey

In the July 2015 survey we received responses from 849,602,745 sites and 5,350,323 web-facing computers. This represents a net loss of 13.5 million websites, but a gain of 3,700 additional computers.

One of the most significant changes in July was the net loss of nearly 13,000 web-facing computers powered by Microsoft web server software, accompanied by a decline of more than 29 million hostnames. The loss was predominantly seen for servers running Microsoft IIS 6.0, 7.0 and 7.5. These versions of IIS are used by Windows Server 2003, which is no longer supported, and Windows Server 2008 (including 2008 R2), whose mainstream support ended in January. The latest stable release of IIS (version 8.5) is however continuing to grow, this month increasing by over 9,000 web facing computers.

This month's decline has brought Microsoft's market share of hostnames down by nearly 3 percentage points, increasing Apache's lead. However, Apache's own market share also fell slightly, largely due to gains made by nginx and Tengine.

nginx gained 8.5 million sites this month, but more remarkably, it gained over 14,000 web-facing computers, with the largest gains in the US, China, Germany and the UK. Compounding Microsoft's losses, nearly 1.8 million existing websites switched from using Microsoft IIS to nginx in July.

nginx also fared well amongst the top million websites, where it gained a further 3,771 sites, causing losses for Apache, Microsoft and Google. Nonetheless, Apache is still used by nearly half of the top million sites, with its market share being almost 26 percentage points ahead of nginx.

Tengine now powers more websites than Google's web server software, after the number of sites using it grew by 7 million to a total of more than 25 million this month. The open source Tengine web server is based on nginx, and used extensively by the online marketplace Taobao. It currently supports all features found in nginx 1.6.2, plus several other features required by Taobao that were not able to be implemented as nginx modules. Neither nginx nor Tengine support HTTP/2 yet, but they were both early supporters of Google's SPDY protocol, on which HTTP/2 is based. nginx plans to provide support for HTTP/2 by the end of this year, and so it is likely that Tengine may also follow suit at a later date.

Tengine 2.1.0 is the latest development version of Taobao's nginx fork, but despite being released more than six months ago, only 25,000 websites currently claim to be using it. In contrast, Tengine 1.4.2 — which was released in 2012 and is also a development version — is used by nearly 10 million sites, making it by far the most commonly deployed version. The latest stable release, Tengine 1.5.2, is the second most commonly used version, but accounts for just under 200,000 sites.

But like Apache, more than half of the sites running Tengine do not reveal which version they are running, and so the true distribution of version numbers could vary greatly. For instance, 2.7 million of these version-less Tengine websites are used to host Taobao stores directly under the taobao.com domain (e.g. baobeiit.taobao.com). Given that Tengine was created by Taobao in order to provide the features they need, it is not unreasonable to assume that these sites might be using the latest release, or at least a relatively recent one.

Despite being used by a large number of sites, Tengine was found on only 4,240 web-facing computers in July 2015. Three-quarters of these computers are located in China, while nearly 10% are located in the US.

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June 2015 Web Server Survey

In the June 2015 survey we received responses from 863,105,652 sites and 5,346,650 web-facing computers, representing an increase of 5.2 million websites and 65,000 additional computers.

Microsoft was responsible for the majority of this month's hostname growth, with a gain of 6.6 million sites, but only contributed 11,700 additional web-facing computers. This has caused Microsoft's market share by hostnames to overtake its declining market share by computers, with both standing at just under 30%.

Apache led this month's web-facing computer growth with a net gain of 24,800, while nginx followed closely with 22,800. This has resulted in nginx's market share increasing by 0.28 to 12.4%, and despite showing the largest net growth, Apache's share fell slightly.

Apache, Microsoft and nginx together account for more than 88% of all web-facing computers in the world, making these vendors by far the most popular choices. However, nginx is the only vendor experiencing consistent increases in market share, up by 3 percentage points over the last year while both Apache and Microsoft have seen losses. The next most commonly used server is lighttpd (pronounced "lighty"), which is used by a mere 0.46% of web-facing computers.

nginx's market share has also been steadily increasing within the top million websites. Its share now stands at 21.9%, and although Apache's use within the million busiest sites has been steadily declining this decade, Apache looks likely to retain the lead for at least a few more years.

Three months after the death of Sir Terry Pratchett, approximately 84,000 websites are now serving the X-Clacks-Overhead: GNU Terry Pratchett header in tribute. Invisible to the majority of users, this HTTP header is a reference to the Discworld novel Going Postal, which features a series of communication towers called the clacks.

In the book, a similar header ("GNU John Dearheart"), is transmitted around the clacks after the inventor's son is killed in an accident while working on a clacks tower. The G means send the message on, N means do not log the message, and U means turn the message around at the end of the line and send it back again — this ensures that the message is transmitted indefinitely, allowing his son to be memorialised forever. Similarly, by transmitting Pratchett's name around the internet, the sites participating in this HTTP header tribute hope to keep his legacy alive. After all, as it says in the book, "A man is not dead while his name is still spoken."

One of the most popular sites to use the X-Clacks-Overhead: GNU Terry Pratchett header is www.theguardian.com, which alone reached more than 5 million unique browsers per day in 2014. With each header taking up 40 bytes of an uncompressed HTTP request, all of the sites involved in the tribute could be generating terrabytes of additional bandwidth usage every day.

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May 2015 Web Server Survey

In the May 2015 survey we received responses from 857,927,160 sites and 5,281,889 computers. The number of sites detected increased by nearly 9M this month after two consecutive months of losses. The number of web facing computers also increased by 54k.

Microsoft had the largest growth of web sites, gaining more than one percentage point of market share. Apache, the current leader with a market share of 39.26%, remained stable. Nginx, however, experienced the largest loss amongst major web server vendors and consequently saw a small loss in market share.

Nginx is performing well within the million busiest sites, and when counting the number of web facing computers using the web server — being responsible for the largest growth in each category. Nginx gained just over 2k of the million busiest sites, giving it a market share of 21.64%. Almost 16% of nginx's market share (or 3.4% of the top million sites) in the top million busiest sites is due to CloudFlare. While nginx is used to serve requests at CloudFlare, they may be proxied to backend servers running other web servers. Nginx contributed over half of the total net gain of web facing computers this month, with an increase of 27,500 computers.

DigitalOcean recently became the second largest hosting company by the number of web facing computers, overtaking OVH. Apache, with 48% of publicly visible DigitalOcean computers, is the leading web server, closely followed by nginx with 45.5%.

As the remaining IPv4 address space dwindles, companies are more often resorting to the emerging transfer market to acquire additional IPv4 ranges — for example, DigitalOcean recently appeared as one of the leading inbound receivers of IPv4 addresses from transfers within the RIPE NCC Service Region. With prices expected to increase as IPv4 becomes a more valuable asset, the adoption of IPv6 could accelerate. Netcraft currently finds 740k IPv6 addresses, an increase of 25% compared to the same time last year.

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