What is Apache? | Web Server

When it comes to web servers, the Apache HTTP Server stands as a powerful and versatile option in the digital realm. In this article, we’ll delve into the world of Apache, its architecture, features, working mechanism, and why it remains relevant in today’s ever-evolving web landscape.


Apache Web Server

The Apache HTTP Server, commonly known as Apache, is a robust, open-source web server that facilitates the delivery of web content across the internet. Initially, there was a common misconception that the name “Apache” was derived from its history of patching and module development. However, it was later clarified that the name pays homage to the resilience and durability attributed to the Native American tribe.

Apache Web Application Architecture

In the realm of web applications, Apache serves as just one component within a web application stack. One of the most prevalent stacks is LAMP, comprising Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP.

  • Linux: This operating system oversees the application’s operations.
  • Apache: It acts as the web server that processes HTTP requests and delivers web content.
  • MySQL: The database system responsible for storing data in a query-friendly format.
  • PHP: The programming language that collaborates with Apache to generate dynamic web content.

Although there may be variations in statistics, a significant proportion of web applications adopt some form of the LAMP stack due to its simplicity and cost-effectiveness. In addition to this core architecture, most web applications incorporate Firewalls, Load Balancers, Web Servers, Content Delivery Networks, and Database Servers for enhanced functionality and security.

  • Firewalls: Safeguard web applications from external threats and internal vulnerabilities.
  • Load Balancers: Distribute traffic between web servers and application servers.
  • Database Servers: Manage data storage and backups.

The Ever-Evolving Web Server Landscape

The digital realm is characterized by a dynamic and constantly changing landscape of technologies. While Apache has long been a frontrunner, there are other prominent players in the field. In the late 90s and early 2000s, Apache dominated the web server scene, powering over 50% of the internet’s active websites. Microsoft’s Internet Information Services (IIS) was a contender but not as popular.

As of 2018, Apache’s share has decreased to just under 40%, with NGINX emerging as the second-largest player, holding approximately 35%, and Microsoft IIS maintaining around 8-10%. The web server landscape continually witnesses the emergence of new applications and server options.

The Merits of Apache Web Servers

Apache’s status as open-source software makes it a favorite among developers. Its open nature encourages collaborative development and allows for the creation of custom modules to enhance its core features. With a legacy dating back to 1995, Apache played a pivotal role in the early growth of the internet.

One of Apache’s key strengths is its ability to handle high volumes of traffic with minimal configuration. Its modular architecture enables users to customize Apache according to their specific needs, optimizing its efficiency. Popular modules include SSL support, Server Side Programming (PHP), and load-balancing configurations for managing extensive traffic. Apache is versatile, running seamlessly on Linux, MacOS, and Windows, making it accessible to a wide range of users.


Features of Apache Web Server

Apache boasts an array of features that contribute to its popularity:

  • Handling of static files
  • Loadable dynamic modules
  • Auto-indexing
  • .htaccess support
  • Compatibility with IPv6
  • Support for HTTP/2
  • FTP connections
  • Gzip compression and decompression
  • Bandwidth throttling
  • Support for Perl, PHP, and Lua scripts
  • Load balancing
  • Session tracking
  • URL rewriting
  • Geolocation based on IP address

The Inner Workings of Apache Web Server

At its core, Apache functions as a communicator between clients and servers, primarily using the HTTP/S protocol. HTTP/S, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, defines how messages are formatted and transmitted across the web. Apache excels in handling this protocol, which is commonly used for web communications.

The Apache server’s behavior is configured through files, with modules governing its operations. By default, Apache listens to the IP addresses specified in its configuration files. Here, the flexibility of Apache becomes evident. The ‘Listen’ directive enables Apache to accept and direct traffic to specific ports and domains based on unique address-port combinations. This feature allows a single server to host multiple websites and domains, each on a different port.


Who Employs Apache Web Server?

Apache HTTP web servers are employed by over 67% of all web servers globally. Their customizability, speed, reliability, and robust security measures make them a preferred choice for top-tier companies.

Alternatives to Apache HTTP Server

While Apache is a dominant player, it’s not the sole option in the web server arena. Several alternatives include:

  • Nginx
  • Apache Tomcat
  • Node.js
  • Lighttpd
  • Cherokee
  • Microsoft IIS
  • Appweb
  • Hiawatha

Apache HTTP Server vs. Apache Tomcat

In simple terms, the Apache HTTP server is designed to serve static web pages, whereas Apache Tomcat is tailored for serving Java applications. While web pages can be delivered via Apache Tomcat, it may not be as efficient as using the Apache HTTP server.


Apache’s enduring presence over the past few decades has established it as a fundamental component in numerous technology stacks and company infrastructure. Despite its declining popularity and the continuous emergence of new technologies, Apache remains a vital technology that every developer should learn to configure and harness.

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