In the April 2019 survey we received responses from 1,445,266,139 sites across 233,886,577 unique domain names and 8,613,630 web-facing computers. This reflects a loss of 16.8 million sites, but a gain of 1.72 million domains and 87,000 computers.
Most websites now use nginx!
Despite the overall loss of sites this month, nginx gained 22.3 million websites and 2.03 million additional active sites. nginx also gained the largest number of web-facing computers, increasing its total by 63,000 to 2.57 million (+2.52%). nginx's market share of web-facing computers is now nearly 30%, and this is continuing to grow steadily closer to Apache's leading share of 37.3%.
Microsoft and Apache lost shares in every headline metric this month, with both vendors contributing significantly to this month's overall loss of sites. Microsoft lost 18.9 million sites, while Apache lost 17.2 million, causing their shares to decrease by 1.01 and 0.87 percentage points.
These changes have pushed nginx into the lead, giving it a 27.5% share of all sites in Netcraft's April 2019 Web Server Survey. Significantly, this is the first time since 1996 that a vendor other than Microsoft or Apache has served the largest number of websites.
The reign of "a patchy" web server
If we cast our minds back to early 1996 (not long before the arrest of the Unabomber and the release of the Spice Girls' first cassette tape single), the most commonly used web server software was still NCSA HTTPd. This long-since discontinued web server was originally developed three years earlier by Rob McCool at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications; but when he left the NCSA in mid-1994, development stalled, prompting many webmasters to develop their own extensions and bug fixes.
A small group of these developers coordinated their changes in the form of patches, eventually leading to the foundation of the independent Apache Group. By April 1995, the group had made its first official public release of the Apache web server (version 0.6.2), which was based on NCSA HTTPd 1.3.
Although the NCSA resumed development of its own web server around the same time, Apache quickly took hold of the market. Exactly a year after Apache's first public release, Netcraft's April 1996 Web Server Survey showed that Apache had succeeded in overtaking NCSA's lead, marking the start of a remarkable uninterrupted 18-year reign.
The non-profit Apache Software Foundation, was later formed in 1999, and today is home to hundreds of other projects in addition to the Apache HTTP Server. Microsoft briefly took the lead from Apache in 2014, and retook the lead from 2016 until being beaten by nginx this month.
However, for now, Apache remains on top of every other headline metric: It leads with a 30.3% share of active sites, 37.3% of all web-facing computers, 31.5% of all domains, and it serves 32.2% of the top million websites. Nonetheless, nginx's strong and consistent growth makes it look set to challenge Apache's lead within a year or two. Most noticeably, it is rapidly catching up with Apache's declining share of web-facing computers, and may also soon threaten Apache's share of the top million websites.
New web server releases
There have been several new releases over the past month:
- Apache 2.4.39 was released on 1 April. As usual, this latest release in the 2.4.x stable branch is regarded by the Apache Software Foundation to be the best available version; but more importantly, it resolves several security issues including an access control bypass and privilege escalation vulnerability.
- nginx 1.15.10 mainline was released on 26 March, adding some new directives and certificate features. This was followed by two bugfix releases: nginx 1.15.11 on 9 April, and nginx 1.15.12 on 16 April.
- OpenLiteSpeed 1.4.46 was released on 5 April, adding support for PHP7 and app servers that use nodeJS, Python and Ruby.
- Taobao's Tengine 2.3.0 was released on 25 March. This development version of the open source nginx fork inherits all features from nginx 1.15.9 and includes several new features, changes and bugfixes.
Visible uptake of the latest Tengine 2.3.0 development version is likely to be slow. The most commonly used numbered version is still 2.2.0, despite there being four newer development versions since its release more than three years ago; and development version 1.4.2, which was released in 2012, is not far behind.
Tengine 2.2.0 is currently used by 13.9% of all Tengine-powered websites, but the majority – 42.4% – do not reveal a version number at all, and a further 29.8% respond with the
Tengine/Aserver server header. Nearly all of the websites that use Tengine Aserver are online stores hosted on subdomains of taobao.com and the domain of its parent company, alibaba.com, suggesting that it is a custom version designed specifically for these applications.
Development versions of Tengine appear to be far more popular than stable releases. The most recent stable version, Tengine 2.1.2, was released in December 2015 and is used by only 0.26% of all Tengine-powered websites.
|Developer||March 2019||Percent||April 2019||Percent||Change|
In the March 2019 survey we received responses from 1,462,021,378 sites, 232,162,099 unique domains, and 8,526,624 web-facing computers. This reflects a loss of 15.8 million sites, but a gain of 2.57 million domains and 160k web-facing computers.
The March survey brings major upheaval in the domains metric. A large 8 million domain switch from Microsoft to nginx at GoDaddy has allowed nginx to overtake Microsoft to gain second place. Many of these freshly-switched domains do not host distinct content, instead redirecting elsewhere. Accordingly, nginx's share of active sites increased by a more moderate 3.3%. The total number of domains using nginx grew by 15.4%, a 3.24 percentage point increase of market share. Microsoft lost 3.95 p.p. Both remain some way behind Apache in the domains metric, which is 13.8 million domains ahead of nginx.
The largest three vendors - Apache, Microsoft, and nginx - showed at least minor increases in the number of active sites using their respective platforms this month. However, there has been an overall decrease in active site numbers over the past year. Apache in particular has seen a significant drop in active sites of around 20 million. In contrast, the LiteSpeed web server has seen more stable growth from month to month, having increased 960k (+31.7%) over the past year. Cloudflare’s server software, which had previously identified itself as a flavour of nginx prior to 2018, also demonstrated significant growth, serving content for 4.54 million more active sites (+65.6%) than it did a year ago.
Within the top million busiest sites, nginx continues to increase its share of the market, with a further small increase of 0.078 p.p. this month. Apache had its first monthly increase since September 2013, gaining back 0.051 p.p. Apache has been on a downward trend since late 2011 when it held around a 66% majority. Despite this, it has still remained the largest vendor amongst the million busiest sites, despite its market share halving to 32.5% as of March 2019. Microsoft servers have also seen a general decrease of market share over time, and its share has fallen to just under 9% this month.
F5 Acquires NGINX
On March 11th, F5 Networks, Inc. announced its acquisition of NGINX, Inc., the developer of the open source nginx web server. A similar announcement was made by NGINX on their website the same day. The acquisition comes with a $670 million price tag.
F5 and NGINX both provide rival sets of products, although the two have traditionally targeted different communities. F5’s BIG-IP line-up provides a variety of specialised products and service-based solutions for application delivery networking. Much of the key functionality provided by BIG-IP products, such as reverse proxying and load-balancing, overlap with the feature set of NGINX Plus, an exclusively software-based product providing a load balancer, web server, and content cache, along with exclusive features not included in the open-source edition of nginx. NGINX has made numerous blog posts and guides promoting its NGINX Plus product over F5’s BIG-IP, with competitive pricing and greater developer agility being common points of discussion.
In March 2019, Netcraft identified 12.6 million domains being served by F5 BIG-IP systems. Most of these BIG-IP systems are used in conjunction with other web server software.
|Developer||February 2019||Percent||March 2019||Percent||Change|
In the February 2019 survey we received responses from 1,477,803,927 sites, 229,586,773 unique domains, and 8,366,753 web-facing computers. This reflects a loss of 40.4 million sites, and gains of 979k domains, and 157k web-facing computers.
Microsoft experienced the largest gain in domains this month, with a net increase of just over one million. Despite several months of relatively small fluctuating gains and losses, the number of domains running Microsoft server software is on a general upward trend. Its total now stands at 59.3 million domains, up by just under 2.6 million (+4.6%) since this time last year. However, this strong domain growth was not reflected in any other metric this month – Microsoft gained only 478 web-facing computers, made losses both in active sites and within the top million sites, and suffered a sizable loss of 65 million hostnames.
On 20 February, Microsoft published a security advisory regarding a potential denial of service vulnerability in IIS. It can be exploited by sending specially crafted HTTP/2 requests to a Microsoft IIS web server, causing CPU usage to spike to 100% until the malicious connections are killed by IIS. Microsoft has addressed this issue in February's "non-security" update by providing the ability to define limits on the number of HTTP/2 settings parameters allowed over a connection.
nginx's growth in the domains metric was some way behind Microsoft's this month, with an increase of 622k. nginx's current total of 52.6 million domains represents a growth of over 8.6 million domains (+19.1%) since February 2018 – over three times that of Microsoft – however, its market share has remained just under 3 percentage points behind Microsoft's since April 2018. In terms of web-facing computers, nginx experienced the largest increase (+102k), continuing its steady gains in market share. It now holds a 29.0% share of the web-facing computer market with a total of 2.4 million.
The latest version of nginx (1.15.9 mainline) was released on 26 February, with some small changes including two new features and two bug fixes. Another product in the nginx family, NGINX Unit 1.7.1, was also released in February to address a security vulnerability in its router process. NGINX Unit is a lightweight web application server that can serve sandboxed Go, Perl, PHP, Python, Ruby and – soon – Java applications.
Apache is still losing domains, with a decrease of 216k this month, and 7.3 million domains over the past year. Apache is also gradually losing market share in terms of web-facing computers, despite an overall increase in the number of public web servers using it: this month, Apache gained 32.9k web-facing computers, taking its total up to 3.2 million, while competitor growth caused its market share to fall to 38.04%. The latest version, Apache 2.4.38, was released on 22 January. This release in the 2.4.x stable branch is regarded as the best available version of Apache, and includes three security fixes and multiple bug fixes.
|Developer||January 2019||Percent||February 2019||Percent||Change|
In the January 2019 survey we received responses from 1,518,207,412 sites, 228,607,903 unique domains, and 8,209,715 web-facing computers. This reflects a loss of 138 million sites, and gains of 768.9k domains, and 61.9k web-facing computers.
The vast majority of the loss of sites this month was seen for those using Microsoft web server software — dropping by 203 million sites (-29%). While much of this loss was concentrated at a single hosting provider and made up of automatically generated sites, Microsoft suffered losses in all metrics this month, albeit with much smaller reductions elsewhere. While Microsoft lost more than two hundred million sites in a single month, the net loss of domains was just 89k. Much of this drop can be attributed to IIS 6.0 and 7.5, while the latest version 10.0 saw a gain of 89k domains, and IIS 8.5 gained 164k.
nginx continues to gain market share in the web-facing computer metric, with the largest increase of 47k computers this month being more than double that of Apache's 21k gain. In the domains market nginx remains at somewhat of a plateau, with a loss of 144k domains taking its market share down to 22.7% — just 0.2pp higher than its share in April 2018. The largest factor this month — a single domain parking company, Bodis, moving all of its parked sites over to OpenResty. While the survey tracks these two products separately, OpenResty makes uses of the nginx core, integrating it with additional Lua-based modules.
Apache experienced a large gain in the domains metric this month with an increase of 245k. However, even with the losses seen for both Microsoft and nginx, it was not enough to boost Apache's market share which remains at 32.5%. The largest gain in domains came again for Cloudflare with an increase of 500k. Cloudflare predominantly uses its own server software originally based on nginx. OpenResty also saw greater gains than the market leader Apache, increasing by 388k with help from the movement of sites from nginx at Bodis.
Apache has released an update to httpd 2.4.38 to address an "important" remote DoS vulnerability, which allowed remote attackers to trigger an infinite loop through client-initiated renegotiation on servers using httpd 2.4.37 and OpenSSL version 1.1.1 or later. This is the first "important" level security issue in Apache HTTP Server since July 2017.
|Developer||December 2018||Percent||January 2019||Percent||Change|
In the December 2018 survey we received responses from 1,656,556,205 sites, 227,839,033 unique domains, and 8,147,795 web-facing computers. This reflects a gain of 4.37 million sites, 1.09 million domains, and 98.9k web-facing computers.
Whilst Apache's server software remains the market leader in most metrics, its share continues to erode in favour of competing products. In December 2018, Apache's flagship server product, httpd, saw a net decrease of 938k domains (-1.27% from last month), 28.6 million sites (-8.43%), and 848k active sites (-1.49%). Whilst another Apache product, known as Coyote, grew by 151k domains this month (+32.6%), the majority of the increase is attributable to parking pages, rather than sites with unique content. Apache's share of the top million sites has been falling steadily over the past few years, and is now down to 33.04%. Although it still holds the largest share, its margin is rapidly shrinking, and its dominance will likely be challenged by nginx in a year's time. Despite these losses, the number of web-facing computers running Apache software does, however, continue to grow, with an increase of 22.8k (+0.73%) this month.
nginx showed the fastest growth, having increased its domain count by 624k (+1.21%) this month. It also saw a 247k increase in active sites (+0.60%) — whereas Microsoft and Apache both saw losses — and has consistently seen large increases in its web-facing computer count. nginx has now reached 2.28 million web-facing computers, a significant 39.9% growth over the past 12 months compared to Apache's 4.98% and Microsoft's 1.93% over the same period. nginx saw two new releases in during November, fixing three CVEs, as well as introducing a few minor features and bug fixes.
Microsoft's server software holds the greatest market share when it comes to total number of sites. With over 688 million, it now has more sites than nginx (358 million) and Apache (314 million) combined, representing 41.53% of the market. This month Microsoft experienced an increase of 35.9 million sites and 246k domains. Much of the domain increase was seen at Amazon (+146k) and GoDaddy (+189k). Microsoft presently powers 9.33% of the world's top one million websites. Microsoft's top million share has seen some fluctuation over the year, with a slight decrease of 0.13pp this month, but only 0.30pp over 12 months.
Some of the large increase in overall domains this month can be seen at Cloudflare, which predominantly uses its own server software originally based on nginx. 8.20 million domains are currently served from servers identifying themselves as Cloudflare — 373k more than last month. At Google, usage of GSE (Google Servlet Engine) dropped massively from 897k domains down to 228k in favour of another google server, GHS, which is often used purely for redirects.
|Developer||November 2018||Percent||December 2018||Percent||Change|
In the November 2018 survey we received responses from 1,652,185,816 sites, 226,752,928 unique domains, and 8,048,899 web-facing computers. This reflects a loss of 21.3 million sites, but a gain of 1.7 million domains and 121 thousand web-facing computers.
The largest contributor to the increase in domains this month came from sites running on Microsoft server software, with an additional 1.18 million domains. The growth was concentrated at GoDaddy on domains running IIS 7.5.x, which took up 1.16 million of the increase. In addition to newly detected IIS domains, and a movement of some domains from nginx, many existing domains running previously unknown IIS versions also reported as IIS 7.5.x this month, resulting in the total number of domains for this version almost doubling to reach 12.7 million. This makes IIS 7.5.x the most common version seen by the survey, 2.7 million domains ahead of the newer 8.5.x version in second place, which first saw release in 2013. Despite the large gain in domains, Microsoft experienced losses in most other metrics, including a significant loss of 3.14 million active sites. Many of the domains gained at GoDaddy are likely to be holding pages, contributing only a small increase to the number of IIS active sites hosted at the company.
nginx experienced the largest loss in domains this month of 560 thousand, largely caused by a drop of just over 1 million domains at GoDaddy. Nginx has been experiencing a steady rise in market share by domains for many years, however this has now remained relatively static for the last 6-months at 23%. nginx remains just under 3 percentage points behind Microsoft’s 26% market share. Meanwhile though, nginx has continued to show strong growth in web-facing computers, with the largest increase this month of 51 thousand. Here its steady market share increases have shown no such pause, and it holds almost 28% of the market. Apache and Microsoft followed some way behind in web-facing computer gains, with increases of 13 thousand and 12 thousand, both experiencing small losses in market share as a result.
|Developer||October 2018||Percent||November 2018||Percent||Change|
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