Social-networking site keeps Apache atop Web server market

Research firm says open-source software extended lead over Microsoft's IIS in February

A social networking site that caters to an older crowd is helping the open-source Apache Web server widen its market share lead over Microsoft's Internet Information Services software, according to market research firm Netcraft.

England-based Netcraft said Apache was being used to run 80.2 million Web sites worldwide as of the end of February, giving it a 50.9 per cent market share vs. 35.6 per cent for IIS, which is a bundled component of Windows Server. The next most popular Web server is Google's, with 5.2 per cent of the market, Netcraft said.

Apache is a longtime favorite of Web developers that has ruled the Web server roost since 1996, by Netcraft's counting. Its dominance peaked in November 2005, when Apache held 71 per cent of the market -- 3.5 times the 20.2 per cent share that IIS had. That caused commentators such as Oracle CEO Larry Ellison to declare that IIS had been "wiped off the face of the earth" by Apache.

But Apache's market share steadily eroded over the past two years, largely due to the growing popularity of Microsoft's Windows Live Spaces blogging platform and Google's rival Blogger technology, according to Netcraft.

In the eyes of some open-source advocates, the market share gains by IIS during that period also resulted from some illegitimate tactics on the part of Microsoft -- for instance, allegedly paying large domain name resellers to "park unused domain names in IIS instead of Apache.

Netcraft had gone so far as to predict that IIS, propelled by interest in new features included in Windows Server 2008, could overtake Apache sometime this year.

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