Nginx Will Soon Eclipse Apache: 29% of the World’s Busiest Websites Run On Nginx Now

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Aarzu Khan
A full-time data scientists and a part-time industry analyst; still learning power of effective presentation and firm believer of the thought "Numbers are always magical". Love to be in the network of people who 'know' how to respect their time and keep others engaged in meaningful activities.

With the growing number of internet users, brands across the globe are leaving no stone unturned to attract new internet users to their website. The trend has triggered a stiff competition among webmasters who are burning their midnight oil to make their clients’ website as engaging as possible. Just like website content and user interface, underlying server architecture is equally important to keep visitors hooked to the website. According to Google Insights, for every delay of one second in page load time, conversions can fall by up to 20%. Probably that’s the reason more than one-third of the world’s top million busiest websites trust Apache.

According to the latest data by Netcraft, out of 1.8 billion registered hostnames, only 172.6 million websites were found active by the end of Q3 2017. Of those active ones, 45% of websites are using Apache web server technology, followed by Nginx which is used by 21% active websites.

The above data clearly depicts the market domination of Apache web server, beating giants like Microsoft and Google which is used by mere 7% and 8% active websites, respectively.

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With the above figures, Apache appears to emerge as the most popular web server technology employed by the majority of webmasters.

The trend, however, is changing of late.

Before we dig deep to understand the changing trend, it’s important to understand how the number of active websites is measured. Measuring the accurate number of active websites on the internet is a daunting task. Besides real active ones, the number includes websites that either attract a negligible number of visitors and domains with just a landing page. To make the number more authentic, only sites with distinct content will be counted, such that unique content is counted once no matter how many domains and hostnames point at the site.

NGINX Is Growing At The Cost of Apache And Microsoft

For the last two years, Apache has been ruling the internet, leading by a distant margin from its competitor Microsoft. The trend, however, has been changing since the introduction of NGINX in 2007.

For the last 10 years, the popularity of NGINX has been growing constantly. By the end of Q3 2017, 21% of active websites were found running on NGINX. It is hard to believe that webmasters, server architects, service providers, cloud builders, web hosters, and enterprises are not following the trends. The growing popularity is NGINX is mainly due to its openness and ability to act as a front-end proxy for Apache and other web servers to turn a collection of badly behaving Internet user connections into a more orderly stream of stuff that helps Apache do a better job serving.

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When we dug deep into the trend, we found it’s more of Microsoft server users who are falling in love with NGINX. In the last 10 years, from the beginning of Q4 2007 to the end of Q3 2017, Microsoft has lost its 80% share, most to NGINX. In October 2007 Microsoft was at its peak as 38% of active websites were running on Microsoft, which has tumbled down to mere 7% by the end of Q3 2017.

But, it’s not just Microsoft which is facing the heat from the growing adoption of NGINX. Apache has been on the receiving end as well, albeit with little loss. The market share of Apache in Q3 2007 was hovering around 48%, which has now come down to 45% by the end of Q3 2017. It’s interesting to learn that it was Apache which was dominating the internet when nearly three-fourths of active websites were running on it in 2005.

Market Share of NGINX Swelled Over 250% In Last 5 Years

The importance and merit of NGINX become much more clear when we filter the data based on the top 1 million busiest websites on the Internet. 29% of the world’s top 1 million busiest websites run on NGINX. Though Apache holds the pole position, NGINX is closing the gap very fast.

NGINX Apache used by world's businest websites

In the last five years, a sizable number of world’s most popular websites (by traffic) has moved from APACHE and Microsoft to NGINX. From 60% share of the world’s busiest websites in Q3 2017 to 39% share by the end of Q3 2017, Apache has been losing its ground to NGINX with each passing quarter.

Interestingly, during the same 5 year period, the market share of NGINX has swelled more than 250%, reaching 29% by the end of Q3 2017.

Headquartered in San Francisco, NGINX has a team of more than 100 people. So far the company has raised nearly $41 million from various VCs including Runa Capital, New Enterprise Associates, and Index Ventures. It was started as Open Source Project in 2002 and later, in 2011, got registered as a company.

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