For years now, if you were looking to set up a web server, one of the first considerations when looking for software was Apache. This has led the way in the market for a while, being used on many of the world's top sites. However, while its market dominance is still intact, the last few months may signal the beginning of a shift in attitudes, as more developers seem to be looking to alternatives.
Nginx gaining ground
This is according to the latest Web Server Survey from Netcraft, which revealed Apache is now being used on 100 million fewer hostnames than in June last year. While it still retains a market share of 55.26%, this is a significant fall from the 66% recorded in June 2011. One of the big winners as a result of this has been Nginx, as the open-source web server software that has been steadily gaining ground. while its share of 12.64% is still a long way behind Apache, placing it third in the list and also behind Microsoft, it was the only one of the three main players to see an increase in share in Netcraft's January survey.
It might also be the case that servers running Nginx are more up to date than those on Apache. Netcraft found that where information on the version is available, the most widely distributed Nginx version is 1.2.x - the most current stable version.
By contrast, the majority of Apache users are still on 2.2.x, despite the new features that are available in the 2.4.x branch, which has been available since February 2012.
One reason for the growing popularity of Nginx as opposed to Apache or Microsoft web servers could be its simplicity and performance. Tech news and information site Ars Technica recently compared the two and observed that while the huge range of features and customisation available with Apache make it a great choice for advanced users, if you just want to get a website up and running quickly, Nginx is hard to beat.
It was noted the performance of Nginx can often exceed that of Apache for speed and efficiency, particularly if you aren't looking to do anything complex with your site, which may be why its seeing such an upturn in interest.