Microsoft's Internet Information Services (IIS) continues to narrow the gap with the open source Apache Web server, with a survey firm suggesting that the longtime second banana could surpass Apache as early as next year.
Microsoft, which added 2.6 million Web sites in the last month, grew to 36.2 percent of all active Web sites, according to figures released Monday by U.K.-based research firm, Netcraft. Apache lost nearly a million Web site names, as its share of active Web sites fell to 48.4 percent.
Apache now leads IIS, which is bundled with Windows Server, by 12.2 percent among active Web sites, a list which excludes registered domain names that are not yet in actual usage.
"But if Microsoft continues to gain share at its current pace, it could close the gap on Apache sometime in 2008," said the Netcraft posting accompanying the survey results.
That's a major turnaround in two years. Apache has led the Netcraft survey since its inception in 1995. By November 2005 it was running 71 percent of all Web sites. That gave Apache a greater-than 50 percent lead over IIS's 20.2 percent share and caused commentators such as Oracle executive Larry Ellison to declare that IIS had been "wiped off the face of the earth" by Apache.
But Microsoft's recent gains have been so fast that furious open source proponents such as Bruce Perens claimed last year that Microsoft was paying large domain name resellers such as Go Daddy to "park" unused domain names in IIS rather than Apache.
Perens, who set up a Web site called OpenSourceParking.com for users to park their domain names on an Apache server to counter what he sees as Microsoft's attempts to manipulate mindshare, conceded that Apache's market share is declining, though he attributed it to the growing popularity of other open source Web servers such as lighttpd.
"Technology evolves," Perens said in an e-mail. But businesses that use IIS are bringing trouble upon themselves, he argues. "My own Web server running Linux does not have a firewall, it's been on the Net for 10 years and has never needed one. Try running any MS operating system naked on the Net that way."
Chris Neppes, sales and marketing director for IIS add-on vendor Port80 Software, says Netcraft's list of active Web sites helps avoid "parked" domains, though he said the methodology is not as foolproof as Port80's own surveys, which include just Web sites of Fortune 1000 companies.
That data shows IIS in use at 55 percent of Web sites, versus Apache's 24.9 percent.