The Apache webserver has been the most popular software used to serve websites, almost since its inception. Only once, recently was it knocked off the #1 spot, and that was only temporarily, when a very small number of mass-hosts used reportedly used Microsoft’s IIS webserver. That didn’t last long though, and so Apache HTTPD is now still serving over half of active sites after 20+ years of service.
The history of the Apache webserver is almost a history of open source.
In February of 1995, the most popular server software on the Web was (by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications). However, development of that httpd had stalled after Rob left NCSA in mid-1994, and many webmasters had developed their own extensions and bug fixes that were in need of a common distribution. A small group of these webmasters, contacted via private e-mail, gathered together for the purpose of coordinating their changes (in the form of "patches").
How Apache Came to Be
Apache Http server
The legend is that the name came from “a patchy Web server”, the original NCSA webserver, plus patches. That isn’t entirely accurate - but it did get quickly retconned into place.
Someone said they liked the name and that it was a really good pun. And I was like, “A pun? What do you mean?” He said, “Well, we’re building a server out of a bunch of software patches, right? So it’s a patchy Web server.” I went, “Oh, all right.” …
The name according to Brian Behlendorf, one of the creators of Apache
When people talk about using the Apache webserver - they invariably mean the Apache HTTPD webserver. In fact, there are now a number of webservers as part of the wider Apache project. Apache ‘web servers’ among the list of projects. A number of more specialised web-servers, like Tomcat and Geronimo, which are designed first and foremost to run Java-based applications.
At its simplest, like every other webserver, Apache, takes a request for a file from a ‘virtual’ location (a URL, like http://example.com/filename.txt) and delivers that back to the person - or machine that requested it. In the modern age, the file is often processed to deliver something other than the raw file on disk. An image, or video will be delivered as-is, but a PHP file (for example) will be run and the result of that program will be returned. In the future, I’ll show you some examples of simple code you can write when it comes to some
The generic server quickly won fans for the relative ease of setup and use, and extraordinary extensibility of the core software. PHP, running around 80% of all dynamic pages online, is easy to add with the appropriate module. While there are other ways to run PHP scripts, the sheer simplicity can be a real advantage.
There have also been modules for Python, Perl and Ruby - though, some have been discontinued, and most sites will use other means to run such scripts.
The Apache Foundation
In 1999, members of the Apache Group formed the Apache Software Foundation to provide organizational, legal, and financial support for the Apache HTTP Server. The foundation has placed the software on a solid footing for future development, and greatly expanded the number of Open Source software projects...
How Apache Came to Be
There are now hundreds of other projects under the Apache foundation banner, a number of them having been donated by the orginal companies or developers that started them.
Some high-profile ‘donated’ projects
- Cassandra - initially developed at Facebook
- Kafka - originally developed by LinkedIn
- Traffic Server - donated by Yahoo
Although the really well known Apache projects are few in number, the contribution they make to the wider internet are huge. The original Apache HTTPD server stands up, even two decades after its initial release as some of the most useful, popular, and extendable pieces of software available. Without it, the net would be a very different place.