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The Business Web Server Survey

This survey was conducted in March of 2000 but a recent sample-size survey showed that the results are still within about 4 percent of reality. A new survey will be conducted soon.

There are three web servers battling for dominance in the business world - the open source Apache and the Microsoft and Netscape commercial web servers. Many companies choose a web server based on what most other companies use. For this reason, BizNix conducted a survey of web servers in use by medium to large companies as well as government agencies and military.

The survey results are broken down by lists such as the Fortune 500, Global 500, and our own BizNix 300. The results appear in the table below. Commentary on the results follows the table.

Server Netcraft Fortune 500 Global 500 BizNix 300
  Apache     55.5%   14.9%   23.5%   27.8%
  IIS     22.9%   40%   27.4%   30.9%
  Netscape      7.8%   36.9%   38.2%   33.5%
  Other     13.8%   8.2%   10.9%   7.8%

Netcraft survey

The Apache web server is regarded as one of the best web servers there is and the most widely deployed. Open Source enthusiasts are quick to point out the Netcraft Web Server Survey that is the result of a survey of over 13 million web sites. The survey shows Apache to be the leader of the pack with Microsoft's IIS coming in second and the Netscape (now called iPlanet) web servers a distant third.

Unfortunately, these numbers don't tell the real story about web server usage in business. Large numbers of these 13 million web sites are served by a much smaller number of web servers. When a single web server supports two or more web site addresses this is called virtual hosting. The Netcraft survey results are skewed in favor of those web servers that are most commonly used for virtual hosting. Apache is the web server of choice for virtual hosting and this is the reason why the Apache numbers are so high.

There's nothing wrong with virtual hosting and with the Netcraft results. You simply need to understand what the results are saying. Apache is the number one web server choice for organizations that support large numbers of virtual hosts. Most of these organizations are Internet Service Providers (ISPs). While Microsoft's IIS and the Netscape servers support virtual hosting as well, far fewer ISPs use these products opting instead for the free and highly regarded Apache.

Fortune 500

The 1999 Fortune 500 list of companies ranks the top corporations in the United States. We expected the results to be dramatically different than the Netcraft results because upper management in big business generally don't understand open source software (OSS). They often forbid the use of OSS because they confuse it with the FreeWare and ShareWare from the 1980s. They're not aware that the quality of Apache rivals the commercial products and surpasses the commercial products in terms of flexibility and functionality.

As expected, Apache is far from being in the lead. Clearly, the biggest companies in the U.S. prefer the commercial web servers. While Microsoft's IIS is in the lead, the Netscape servers are not as far behind as the Netcraft survey would have you believe.

Global 500

The problem with the Fortune 500 list is that it's limited to U.S. companies. What about the rest of the planet? For this we use the Fortune 1999 Global 500. This list includes many of the same U.S. companies that were at the top of the Fortune 500 list but also includes companies in other countries - primarily Japan and Europe.

The surprising results show that Netscape is the leader by a significant margin even though Netscape's percentage is not that different than the Fortune 500 survey. The reason for the Netscape lead is the increased Apache usage. Of course, Apache's gain comes at the expense of Microsoft's IIS which drops by about 13 points.

These results show that a far greater percentage of non-U.S. top companies are using Apache than their U.S. counterparts. It seems that the Europeans and Japanese are more comfortable with using open source software. Some say that upper management in these companies put technical decisions in the hands of their technically-astute middle management while top U.S. companies make these decisions at upper levels of management.

The BizNix 300

The Fortune 500 and Global 500 lists don't include medium sized businesses, government agencies and military. We assembled a list of web sites with these organizations included. Our methodology was to go to a few Internet search engines (Yahoo and Alta Vista) and harvest what we found in the "companies", "government" and "military" categories.

Instead of the Netscape servers coming in a distant third as they did in the Netcraft results, Netscape leads the pack at 33.5% - though Microsoft's IIS is very close behind at 30.9%. Apache comes in third at 27.8%. All three web servers are very close indeed. The market for web servers is close to evenly split.

The real surprise in this survey is Netscape versus Microsoft. You could easily get the impression from the Netcraft survey, trade press articles, and user group discussions that the Netscape servers are obsolescent and Microsoft's IIS is eating their marketshare. The reality is that the Netscape servers are very much alive and may have a larger installed base than IIS within the general business world.


This survey concentrates on web servers and not the operating system platforms that they run on. A general trend in the computer industry today is multi-platform products and software. The prevailing attitude of the technically-astute is that software that is independent of an underlying operating system or platform is more flexible and, therefore, more cost effective. This is not necessarily an attitude that is shared by upper management (in the United States mostly) who continue to direct their technical people to deploy more expensive single platform products.

It's useful then to point out just how these web servers rate acording to their ability to run on multiple platforms.

Clearly, the leader has to be Apache. Since it's open source software, it can be compiled to run on nearly any platform. Apache runs on any flavor of Unix. This includes Linux and xBSD. It also runs on NT/2000 servers. Apache now runs on NetWare servers as well.

While the Netscape (iPlanet) web servers are not open source, they have been ported to numerous platforms. They can run on Unix/Linux, Windows and NetWare.

Microsoft's IIS can only run on 32-bit Windows platforms.

If you're a Windows sop, you can use any of the three web servers. If you use Unix, Linux or xBSD, you can use Apache or the Netscape web servers. If you're a NetWare shop, you have your choice of Netscape or Apache web servers. You may also use the NetWare Web Server that Novell no longer supports (but some users still like).

Small business

In order to stave off criticism from the Open Source community, we must point out that if small businesses were included in the BizNix survey the results would certainly put Apache in the lead. We don't know how this would affect the Netscape or IIS results (relative to one another).


The details of conducting the survey were handled by ALC Press. Thanks to Philip Tellis for his httptype program that allowed us to automate much of the survey.

If you need more information or you're a member of the press you can contact us at . Main Page Pegasus Launchpad Jeremy's Personal Page OSY