Web servers Microsoft IIS and NGINX battle for second place

Microsoft's IIS, after falling behind the open-source NGINX Web server, is now racing neck and neck for the number two Web server spot well behind leader Apache.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

When NGINX zoomed up to take second place from Microsoft's Internet Information Services (IIS) in the Web server derby, it looked like NGINX, a fast open-source Web server, would leave IIS in the dust and challenge long time Web leader Apache. It hasn't worked out that way.

Apache remains on top, while Microsoft's IIS and open-source NGINX continue their battle for second place. (Credit: Netcraft)

The July 2013 Netcraft Web Server Survey found that, "Apache and NGINX, both open source web servers, have lost market share this month while Microsoft gained significantly, up by 2.43 percentage points to just shy of 20-percent of worldwide sites. For the second consecutive month, NGINX is powering fewer sites than in the previous month's Web Server Survey, which is due, in part, to almost 2-million sites moving from NGINX to Apache. Within the million busiest sites, a similar picture emerges: NGINX lost over 4,000 busy sites, many of which have moved to Apache."

At the same time, IIS is gaining because of Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud deployments. According to Netcraft, "This month, Netcraft found 170,000 (13,000 more than last month) sites being served on 18,000 (+1,100) web-facing computers at Azure. Azure had net gains of sites from several of the best known hosting providers including Amazon, Rackspace, SoftLayer, and Go Daddy."

Even before this, NGINX was never able to leave IIS behind. After it took second place in January 2012, the two have raced neck and neck. NGINX, which is known for its speed, still has many important customers such as Netflix and Hulu that require very fast server responses to customer demand.

Apache, with 54-percent of the world server market, remains, as it has throughout the 21st century, the top Web server. Lagging behind the big three, with 9-percent, is Google Web Services (GWS). GWS is a proprietary custom-built server that runs on Linux.

Looking ahead Netcraft wonders if concerns over the NSA Prism surveillance program might drive more Web server users to Europe. If that proves to be the case, Apache and NGINX may gain popularity.

According to Netcraft, "the use of open-source software is significantly more prominent in Europe: more than 80 percent of European hosted sites use Apache or NGINX and less than 5 percent use Microsoft IIS. The United States, on the other hand, has more than 25 percent of its sites running on Microsoft IIS while Apache and NGINX have a slim majority of just 53 percent."

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