The Number One Web Server

More than 60 percent of the Web servers in the world use Apache, according to a prominent Web server survey company called Netcraft. Netcraft publishes the Top Server statistics periodically. If you want to put faces to the numbers, you can visit

What Apache has accomplished is simply amazing! Who knew that an open source Web server could consistently beat two major commercial competitors, Microsoft and Netscape as a Web server platform! Everyone has his or her own reason for why Apache is so popular. Here are mine:

  • Apache is a highly configurable Web Server with a modular design. It is very easy to extend the capabilities of Apache Web server. Anyone with decent C or Perl programming expertise can write a module to perform a special function. This means that there are tons of Apache modules available for use.
  • Apache is a free, open source technology. Being free is important but not as important as being open source.
  • Apache works great with Perl, PHP, and other scripting languages. Most Web applications are still scripts. Perl excels in the script world and Apache makes using Perl a piece of cake with both CGI support and mod_perl support.
  • Apache runs on Linux and other Unix systems. Linux used to be an underdog operating system, which has now found itself in enterprise computing arena. Linux and Apache go hand-in-hand in the enterprise world today. I believe Linux’s acceptance in the business world has made Apache’s entry into such territory easy. However, there are people who would argue that it was Apache’s fame that made Linux find its way into the business world easier. Either way, Apache and Linux is a powerful combination. Other Unix systems such as FreeBSD and Solaris, and the new Mac OS X also play a great role in expanding Apache’s user base horizon.
  • Apache also runs on Windows. Although Apache will run much better on Windows platform with version 2.0, Apache was already in Windows market with Version 1.3.x. We will see a lot of Windows systems switching to Apache from Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS) because Apache 2.0 architecture gives it the power it needed to compete natively.

Here is a bit of Apache history. In the early days of the Web, the National Center for Super Computing Applications (NCSA) created a Web server that became the number one Web server in early 1995. However, the primary developer of the NCSA Web server left NCSA about the same time, and the server project began to stall.

In the meantime, people who were using the NCSA Web server began to exchange their own patches for the server and soon realized that a forum to manage the patches was necessary. The Apache Group was born. The group used the NCSA Web server code and gave birth to a new Web server called Apache.

Originally derived from the core code of the NCSA Web server and a bunch of patches, the Apache server is now the talk of the Web server community. In three short years, it acquired the lead server role in the market. The very first version (0.6.2) of publicly distributed Apache was released in April 1995.

The 1.0 version was released on December 1, 1995. The Apache Group has expanded and incorporated as a nonprofit group. The group operates entirely via the Internet. However, the development of the Apache server is not limited in any way by the group.

Anyone who has the know-how to participate in the development of the server or its component modules is welcome to do so, although the group is the final authority on what gets included in the standard distribution of what is known as the Apache Web server.

This allows literally thousands of developers around the world to come up with new features, bug fixes, ports to new platforms, and more. When new code is submitted to the Apache Group, the group members investigate the details, perform tests, and do quality control checks. If they are satisfied, the code is integrated into the main Apache distribution.