By: Ryan Frankel Posted: May 9, 2016
TL; DR: We assess two of the most popular web servers: NGINX and Apache, on six key points of comparison (performance for static vs. dynamic content, OS support, security, flexibility, documentation, and support). We’ll find that the two are worthy competitors, but Apache’s .htaccess file makes it particularly appealing to shared hosting customers. Meanwhile, NGINX reigns supreme for dynamic content support, and due in part to its more advanced feature offerings, is most popularly used by VPS and dedicated hosting users. Finally, we’ll go over our recommendations for hosting your next web app project.
There was a time (~late 90s-2011) when the Apache web server served around 60 percent — and at times even more — of the world’s websites. That percentage has since fallen below 35 and is still dropping at quite a significant rate. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s IIS web server has held a somewhat steady, slightly increasing, share of the market, reaching 30 percent today. Third place is held by a competitor called NGINX (pronounced “engine-x”), which currently serves around 16 percent of all sites, and that rate is steadily growing by about one percent each year.
I’ll note that some web surveyors place the market shares of Apache and NGINX much higher, considering IIS a lesser competitor. Reality likely resides somewhere in the middle, but the overall trends are clear. Considering only the busiest sites on the Web, Apache holds about 46 percent of the market share, but that portion drops by about four percent annually; NGINX holds a strong second place with 24 percent of the market share and is growing at a rate of about three percent each year. Clearly NGINX is enticing the world’s biggest web properties with something!