A company called Netcraft keeps track of all of the public Web servers it can find (about 45 million domain names currently). One thing they do is track statistics for Web server software. When people talk about the fact that the majority of Web servers run Apache, it’s the Netcraft statistics that they were talking about. A month or so ago (maybe longer), Microsoft’s Web server software (Internet Information Software) posted a huge gain in the rankings, and there was some speculation that Linux and Apache were losing ground to Microsoft. For some people (and I’ll include myself in this group), angst ensued.

As it turns out, nearly all of these large shifts occur due to changes in the platforms used by companies that park lots of domains. When your register a domain, a name server has to be provided. If you don’t have your hosting service set up for the domain yet, most registrars will park a domain for you until you migrate it to your own hosting provider, putting up a default page of some kind (often bristling with annoying ads). Many people buy domains on a speculative basis or on a whim and don’t do anything with them (I have 3 or 4 that are just parked right now). If a registrar changes the hosting platform for their parked domains, it can cause a big shift in the overall Web server statistics. Those kinds changes account for nearly all the tectonic shifts over the past few years. In their most recent report (linked above), Netcraft reports that Microsoft has spent the past couple of years actively lobbying these registrars to use their products to host parked domains in order to skew the statistics in their favor. Over the past month, two really large services have dumped Microsoft, thus explaining Microsoft’s latest fall in market share.