After almost two decades of trailing the market leader, Microsoft's Web server software is coming close to rivaling the dominance of the Apache Web server, according to the latest Netcraft survey of Internet infrastructure.
"Apache has been the most commonly used Web server for more than 18 years, but this is the closest Microsoft has ever been to threatening this position," a blog post from the English security firm stated about the survey.
The growing use of Microsoft's server software also suggests that the company's Azure cloud services continues to gain traction, given that some of the new copies of the software are running from within Azure.
The open source software from the Apache Software Foundation is beset by all sides from rivals. Netcraft also reported that the use of the Nginx high performance Web server software continues to gain traction as well, at least with the most heavily visited websites.
The monthly automated survey pinged over 975 million websites to determine which server software and associated applications they were using.
May saw an additional 9 million sites using Microsoft Web server software, increasing the company's share of the Web by 0.37 percent. In the same period, Apache's market share fell by 0.18 percent, despite gaining an additional 4.3 million sites. Microsoft is now just 4.1 percentage points behind Apache, which, as the most popular Web server software on the Internet, now powers about 37.6 percent of all sites.
Overall, nearly 7 million new sites found by Netcraft are using Microsoft's flagship Web server software IIS (Internet Information Server), around 11,000 of which are being run from within Azure. These instances help "maintain Microsoft's position as the largest Windows hosting company in terms on web-facing computers," Netcraft reported.
Perhaps most embarrassing for Apache champions is that the Apache Lounge, a Web forum for techs running Apache on Windows, now reports running IIS, though Netcraft stipulates that IIS may be used there for load balancing work, while the end nodes may still run Apache.
The use of Nginx actually dipped by 3.7 million sites, though most of these losses came from a handful of hosting sites, most notably Enzu and BurstNet, that switched software. Within the top million most visited sites, Nginx was the only Web server software to gain market share, while Microsoft, Apache and Google each lost market share.