In this latest installment of FOSSlife’s Open Source Success series, we’ll look at the free and open source Apache HTTP server, a classic example of open source success that contributed to the initial growth of the Internet.
The Apache HTTP server (or simply Apache) was launched in 1995 as an outgrowth of a public domain httpd project from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). According to the Apache website, development of that project stalled, so a group of webmasters got together to coordinate their own changes, extensions, and bug fixes in the form of patches. These developers, including Brian Behlendorf, Cliff Skolnick, and others, formed the basis of the original Apache Group, which in turn became The Apache Software Foundation.
After launch, Apache quickly became the most popular web server on the Internet. The project is now developed and maintained, along with hundreds of other projects, by The Apache Software Foundation and is released under the terms of Apache License 2.0.
What Is a Web Server?
So, what does a web server do? At the most basic level, Mozilla explains, “whenever a browser needs a file that is hosted on a web server, the browser requests the file via HTTP. When the request reaches the correct (hardware) web server, the (software) HTTP server accepts the request, finds the requested document, and sends it back to the browser, also through HTTP. (If the server doesn't find the requested document, it returns a 404 response instead.)”
Apache is an essential component of the common LAMP web application stack, which involves Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP or Python. According to Netcraft, Apache now holds 27 percent of the total web server market share. At its peak in November of 2005, it held 71 percent.
The Apache HTTP Server Project, according to the Apache website, is a collaborative software effort aimed at developing and maintaining a “robust, commercial-grade, featureful, and freely available source code implementation of an HTTP (Web) server” for modern operating systems.
According to the FAQ, the powerful and flexible Apache web server implements the latest protocols. It is highly configurable and extensible and can be customized by writing modules using the Apache module API.
The current version of Apache HTTP Server is v2.4.46, which was released in August, 2020. According to the announcement, this version “represents 15 years of innovation by the project and is recommended over all previous releases. This release of Apache is a security, feature and bug fix release.”
If you want to get involved with the Apache HTTP Server, you can send suggestions and bug fixes through the bug reporting form. You can also subscribe to the announcements mailing list, which is used to share information about new releases, bug fixes, and upcoming events. More details can be found at the developer information site.