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Microsoft Gains Ground On Open-Source Apache Web Server

Netcraft's August 2007 survey of about 128 million Web sites shows a decline in market share for Apache to 48.4%, while Microsoft has risen to a 36.2% share of active Web sites.

Apache has long held a tight grip on the Web server market as one of the only true redoubts of open source software. But that hold is loosening, according to surveys by research firm and Internet services company Netcraft.

Microsoft's Internet Information Services (IIS) has been creeping up on Apache HTTP Server for the last 16 months or so, and the August survey shows the narrowest margin yet. "Microsoft's recent gains raise the prospect that Windows may soon challenge Apache's leadership position," a post on Netcraft's Web site says. "If Microsoft continues to gain share at its current pace, it could close the gap on Apache sometime in 2008."

Netcraft's August 2007 survey of about 128 million Web sites shows a decline for Apache from 69.7% of active sites on the Internet in June 2005 to 48.4% today, the first time its share has been this low in nine years. Microsoft, meanwhile, has risen in the last 16 months to a 36.2% share of active Web sites. As recently as November 2005, the gap between the two servers in overall sites on the Web -- active or not -- was as wide as 50%.

Notably, Apache's losses have been compounded by gains from Google, which uses its own Google-flavored Web server for its own sites, and open source server lighttpd, which now make up a total 5.6% of the Web server market. Google switched its Blogger sites from Apache to its specialized Google Front End server earlier this year, according to Netcraft.

Regardless, Microsoft has been steadily on the rise since Go Daddy migrated more than 3.5 million sites from Linux to Microsoft in April 2006. Among potential reasons for Microsoft's increases are increasingly better security, which had been a problem point for IIS in the past, and Microsoft's developer prowess with technologies like .Net. IIS 6.0, which debuted in 2003, has seen only three reported vulnerabilities, significantly less than the 13 Apache has seen since 2005 alone.

Microsoft is including a new version -- IIS7 -- with Windows Server 2008, which will be released by the end of the year to server hardware manufacturers. Microsoft's own site is already running on the new software, and Microsoft has released a "Go Live" license for the most recent test release, meaning that IIS7 is ready enough to run live Web sites with Microsoft support.

IIS7 includes a modular architecture that breaks the server down into pieces for HTTP, others for security and compression, and so on. It also includes performance, manageability, and diagnostics upgrades. Microsoft recently announced that IIS7 will be one of the "server core" options for Windows Server 2008, meaning that those hoping to use a Windows Server box exclusively as a Web server can do so without having to install the full version of Windows Server. In an interview this year, Microsoft developer division general manager Scott Guthrie, who oversees IIS, called IIS7 "the most significant release of the Web server we've ever done."

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