Apache Usage in the Most Popular Web Sites: Take That, ENT

Anyone who has followed the recent brouhaha over Web-server market shares would know that the numbers can be twisted to serve any number of agendas: the boys at ENT polled brochureware sites to argue that Microsoft IIS was gaining in popularity in the Fortune 500, while Apache partisans pointed out that the exhaustive Netcraft survey revealed the Apache Web server to be the most popular Web server in the world--by far. Yes, we come dangerously close to beating a dead appaloosa, but several comments from readers got us thinking: what are the most popular Web sites in the world using as a server, and how does Apache fit in the mix? Quite nicely, as it ends up.

Many of you observing this spat from the sidelines pointed out that perhaps the best test of a Web server is to poll the busiest Web sites in the world to see what these sites were running. If a Web server was powerful enough to serve the needs of these popular sites, it would go a long way in establishing the credentials of the server. Let's be honest: if you're looking for a Web server on a site that generates a decent amount of traffic, it's going to be more important that Apache is the basis for the immensely popular About.com, not that IIS redirects traffic on www.kmart.com.

Using the Media Metrix Top 50 list, we checked out the 30 most popular Web sites through Netcraft to see what the true workhorses of the Web are running. While there are a few different sites that rank sites differently (there's a 100 Hot sites list that differs greatly), Media Metrix is generally regarded as being somewhat authoritative in the field in ranking the most popular Web sites.

The numbers shouldn't be surprising to any faithful reader of Apache Today, as Apache was the most popular Web server used among these Web heavyweights. We used the server look-up facility at Netcraft not just only at the main URL but also at other popular sites owned by the same group. This is the methodology used by Media Metrix to determine their ratings, and we didn't see any reason to deviate from that methodology.

Here are the top servers:
Apache 21
Netscape (Enterprise, FastTrack, Communications) 17
Microsoft IIS 13
Unknown 7
AltaVista 1
NaviServer/AOLServer 1
Roxen 1
StrongHold 1
Yug 1

Obviously, this isn't a slam dunk for Apache. Nor was anyone at Apache Today expecting it to be. But the trends exhibited by the top 30 Web sites in terms of popularity should end any talk about the momentum of IIS in the marketplace, and it should also point out the amazing popularity of Netscape servers. (It also should point out that the taste of Microsoft dog food is even more distasteful to the folks at Redmond that we thought: both HotMail and LinkExchange run Apache on FreeBSD, and both of those are amazingly popular sites.)

There were some major surprises in the operating-system numbers. Solaris was by far the most popular operating system, almost lapping various Microsoft Windows OSes. For all its recent popularity as a server OS, Linux lagged far behind both Solaris and Microsoft Windows. And that stealth OS, BSD, tied Linux.

Here are the top operating systems:
Solaris 26
Windows NT/2000 14
Linux 9
Compaq Tru64 UNIX 3

Here are the results of the rankings (as established by Media Metrix) and the servers (as established by Netcraft). There may be cases where an additional corporate URL was missed (this is not a science, after all), but by and large these ranking represent the server/OS usage among the Internet/Web heavyweights.

1. AOL
www.aol.com is running NaviServer/2.0 AOLserver/2.3.3 on Solaris
www.netscape.com is running Netscape-Enterprise/3.6 on Solaris

2. Microsoft
www.microsoft.com is running Microsoft-IIS/5.0 on Windows 2000

This article was originally published on Jul 27, 2000
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