The first Netcraft Web Server Survey was done over the last weekend in July 1995. It had responses from 18,957 hosts. NCSA was then by far the most commonly used server with 57% of the responses, followed by CERN with 20%. When the survey went public, the first people to access the site were the Apache developers, just four months into their project, who were euphoric to find that 658 sites were using their software. These days the number of Apache sites is comfortably into six figures and their most likely source of competition is Microsoft, rather than the other freely available Unix servers.
The growth of the survey
The growth in the number of sites from 18,957 a year ago to todays 342,081 partly reflects the natural growth in the number of sites, and partly that we have got better at finding them. The eighteen fold rise in the number of hosts in the Web Server Survey over the year compares with a doubling in the number of internet domains found by Network Wizards in the six month period between July 1995 & January 1996. Network Wizards are due to report their July 1996 results shortly; presumably the number of domains will be considerably up on the 240,000 reported for January, as from our own research, in mid July there were 420,000 domains in .com alone.
The size of the survey
With over 342,000 hostnames, the Netcraft Web Server Survey is probably the world's largest collection of web sites; the closest published figure that we have seen is the 275,600 hostnames claimed by Digital for its AltaVista database. Until May 1996 we allowed robots full access to the survey, and so by definition, if we had details of a site, then the search engines had the urls too. Eventually, the files containing the urls to sites running the most popular servers became so big that they were only taken by robots, and so we stopped publishing report files that were more than half a megabyte in size. Since then we seem to have outstripped AltaVista in the quest to find more sites, though this could change; as far as we know our methods are completely different from AltaVista's, and there's no 'right' way to do it.
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