Last month, Netcraft recorded nearly 677 million websites in its April Web Server Survey. May is a different story, though. This time, Netcraft found a drop of 14 million hostnames, the first decline in nearly two years. Despite the decline, things are still looking very good for the Nginx web server and its continued foothold in the Web’s most-used sites.

The hostname decline, according to Netcraft, is due to more than 28 million .info hostnames that were controlled by SoftLayer going into oblivion. The drop was enough to offset new growth, in a month in which Apache lost more than 17 million domains.

Netcraft looks at more than just the total domains, of course. It also measures the million busiest sites and the active sites – which helps to get a view into the Web servers that are actually being used for live sites, as opposed to the parked domains that make up the bulk of the Internet.

SPDY and IIS 8.0

Netcraft’s survey has also picked up on some cutting-edge tech out there, in very small numbers. Netcraft spotted 654 hostnames being powered by Microsoft IIS 8.0, which is the Web server in Microsoft’s Windows Server 2012. It’d be interesting to know how that compares with servers running Apache 2.4x, which was released in February but is still in the early stages of adoption.

Even fewer servers are running SPDY. Netcraft spotted a whopping 339 servers running SPDY, which is mostly Google and a handful of other sites. SPDY usage is likely to increase if and when Apache and Nginx have bundled support for it. You can get a module to use SPDY with Apache now, but it’s not distributed with the official project. Nginx isn’t expected to have SPDY support until later this month.

Nginx Still on the Rise

Once again, Nginx increased its share of the million busiest sites, but only by a hair. In April, the up-and-coming Web server had 100,394 domains responding to the Netcraft survey. In May, it nudged up to 100,417, maintaining its 10.09% share of the market.

Nginx’s share of the active sites actually dropped a bit. In April, it had about 24.3 million. In May, Nginx only had about 23.9 million, which gave it a -0.27% drop in share. Apache increased here, from about 107.7 million to about 109.3 million, or a 0.36% boost to 57.02% of the active servers.

Microsoft also lost servers in May. Microsoft IIS now has 11.9% of the active servers counted by Netcraft, and 14.76% of the top million domains. It might not be long before Microsoft IIS slips to number three behind Nginx and Apache. But it doesn’t look like Microsoft is losing a lot of sites because customers are switching; rather, it appears that IIS is falling behind because it’s not being deployed on new servers. 

What remains to be seen is whether Nginx can put a serious dent in Apache, or if it’s always going to be a distant second. Apache still powers the majority of Web servers, and it has managed to beat back IIS pretty handily.