Top 10 Best Open Source Web Servers

A webserver was initially released in 1991. It is a software designed to serve the files or web pages requested by a user over the World Wide Web. Any web server whose source code is available to developers or the public to view, copy, alter or modify is called an open source web server. It has been a long time since its release, and many new web servers have been introduced, since then in the market. There are still many web servers that are under development, built for specific requirements or technology, or as a demand by a corporation.

In this post, we have put a list of the top best 10 most reliable and popular open source web servers easily accessible to use for your web project for installation and running web applications.  So lets start with our list of the best types of web servers.

1. Apache HTTP Server

open source web servers

Apache HTTP Web Server is one of the oldest and most popular web servers released back in 1995. It is a free and open source software maintained and developed by the Apache Software Foundation. As per the stats, around 34.1% of web applications and websites run on the Apache webserver. Apache software accepts directory (HTTP) requests from varied internet users and shares back the requested data in the form of files and Web pages.

 

It is one of the fastest, reliable, and secure web servers customized to handle heavy traffic with minimal configuration. The software is written in C language and is compatible with any operating system like Linux, Apache Windows, Novell Netware, Mac OS X, Solaris, OS/2, Unix-like, FreeBSD, etc. Apache software shares the requested information from the server to the client through the HTTP protocol.

 

The open source infrastructure further helps developers to view and collaborate the source code. Additionally, there are plenty of Apache modules that aid the server administrators to extend their features, turn on and off the extra functionalities. For the configuration of these modules, you will require access to .htaccess. mod_fcgid, mod_ftp, mod_domain, mod_mbox, mod_pop3, mod_arm4, mod_smtpd, Sandbox are some of the modules of Apache HTTP Server. The software also includes additional features in external extension modules like mod_gzip. This module can help reduce Web pages size that is served over HTTP. Similarly, ModSecurity, another module, helps manage intrusion detection for Web applications.

Key Features

  • Easy to configure
  • Fast and Secure
  • Written in C language
  • The module-based structure makes it more flexible
  • Compatible with any programming language, including PHP, Python, etc
  • Support for CGI, HTTP/2 (mod_http2), FTP connection, XML, and Session tracking
  • URL rewriting
  • Geolocation based on IP address
  • Loading of dynamic modules
  • Custom logging and rotation
  • Bandwidth throttling

2. Nginx Web Server

best web servers

Another open source web server, Nginx was created by Igor Sysoev in 2002. One can also use the software as a reverse proxy, load balancer, HTTP cache, API gateway, and IMAP/POP3 proxy server. As per the stats report for Nginx, around 33.7% of web applications and websites run on the Nginx webserver.

 

The webserver was created as a solution to the C10K problem. The C10K problem occurred when different webservers started experiencing issues in the performance and handling of 10,000 concurrent connections. There were other reasons too, such as serving static files, use of less memory responsible for the demand of a new design that can fit best. The asynchronous architecture of Nginx was more responsive than other webservers and could handle heavy traffic at the same time. Officially the webserver was introduced to the market in 2004. 

 

Over time, Nginx surpassed Apache with its simple configuration system and features like high concurrency, scalability, and low resource utilization. NGINX does not include many modules like Apache. This is why it might become more difficult to add functionality after installation. OSS Nginx and Nginx Plus are the two well-established versions of Nginx 

 

Facebook, DuckDuckGo, Microsoft, Google, IBM, Adobe, LinkedIn, and Twitter are a few high-profile companies that prefer Nginx over Apache.

Key Features

  • Fast CGI support and Reverse proxy with caching
  • High-performance and requires few resources
  • Handle 10,000 concurrent connections
  • Auto-indexing
  • Better scalability
  • Load Balancing Support
  • Prevent DDoS attacks
  • API Gateway
  • Websockets
  • IPv6-compatible

3. Lighttpd Web Server

most popular web servers

Lighttpd is a fast, secure, and free open-source web server with a minimal footprint of less than 1 MB. Developed by Jan Kneschke, the easy-to-set-up Lighttpd webserver works best for speed-critical applications. The webserver is ideal for high-performance web applications and runs on Linux/Unix systems. The software can handle and manage a large volume of parallel connections, is compatible with IPv4 and IPv6, and further supports FastCGI, CGI, and SCGI for interfacing with additional programs. 


If you are facing challenges in a low-memory or low-CPU environment, opt for Lighttpd Webserver – distributed under the BSD license. It also supports applications with other programming languages, including Python, Perl, PHP, and Ruby.

Key Features

  • Compatible with IPv4 and IPv6
  • Easy to set up
  • Supports Fast CGI, CGI, and SCGI for interfacing programs
  • SSL/TLS support
  • URL Rewriting
  • Virtual Hosting
  • HTTP/2 support
  • Support mode_deflate and mod_compress for HTTP compression
  • Support other programming language applications

4. OpenLiteSpeed Web Server

types of web servers

OpenLiteSpeed is a fast and secure Open Source edition of LiteSpeed Web Server Enterprise, designed to manage web applications and monitor varied server metrics. It has an event-driven resource-optimized architecture is built with the purpose to add more security, simplicity, and optimization. The design, further, includes all the Enterprise edition’s necessary features, intuitive Web Admin GUI, and is available under the GPLv3 license. 

 

OpenLiteSpeed can manage thousands of concurrent connections and is compatible with IPv6 and SSL/TLS. The integrated full-page cache module makes it highly customizable and efficient for a high-level user experience. The software is recommended for WordPress-based content websites and is free to download, use, and distribute.

Key Features

  • Bandwidth throttling
  • Features Anti-DDoS connection
  • One-Click Installation
  • Less overhead and more scalability
  • mod_rewrite compatible
  • Built-in Web Admin GUI
  • Offer Automatic Page Speed Optimization features
  • Requires No hardware upgrade

5. Node.JS

node.js web server

Node.js is a JavaScript runtime written by Ryan Dahl to build web applications in Javascript. The opensource and cross-platform is bundled with an HTTP module to enhance its functions as a web server. Written in 2009, it is an event-driven architecture that creates real-time communication in web applications. Governed by Node.js Foundation, the design architecture is capable of asynchronous I/O. Further, it is to install on any machine, extremely fast and efficient. Node.js applications are written in JavaScript, and can be run within the Node.js runtime on Linux.

Key Features

  • Easy to Install
  • Fast and Efficient
  • Networking Support
  • Provides vast scalability
  • Easy to manage frontend and backend with JavaScript 

6. Apache Tomcat Web Server

apache tomcat web server

James Duncan Davidson (Apache foundation) built and design a leading enterprise-level webserver to host Java web-based solutions. The Apache Tomcat software got released under the Apache License version after 20 years. This web server offers high scalability and performance, which is why many large organizations often demand such software.

 

Tomcat is not similar to the other web servers like Nginx or Apache. It is a Java servlet that includes a large number of tools with extended functionality to interacting with Java servlets. Tomcat was under development for over 20 years by Apache software foundation and was lately designed to serve Java-based content. The design also includes a few technical specifications like JavaServer Pages (JSP) and Java Expression Language (Java EL).

 

Catalina (a servlet container), Coyote (an HTTP connector), and Jasper (a JSP engine) are the components of the Apache Tomcat Web Server. Tomcat supports features like AWS (Amazon Web Services), HTTP/2 and OpenSSL, memory leak protection of web applications, and its detection.

Key Features

  • Highly Flexible
  • Lightweight
  • TLS virtual hosting
  • Advanced IO capabilities
  • Supports AWS (Amazon Web Services), HTTP/2, and OpenSSL
  • Refactored clustering

7. Caddy Web Server

web server software

Caddy is one of the powerful multiplatform web server alternatives to Apache Web Server. Designed by Mathew Holt, it is a fast open-source framework with no dependencies. This implies chances of its portability across various distributions might increase. Further, the software is written in the Go language and is easy to install. Available to all distributions, including MAC, Windows, Android, Linux, BSD, and Solaris.


Since, it is the only web server that runs applications written in GO, only 0.1% of web applications, and websites use this server. Another feature of the Caddy project is that it automatically uses HTTPS by default and renews TLS certificates.

 

It can also act as a reverse proxy, load balancer, API gateway and supports IPv6 and HTTP/2, virtual hosting, URL rewriting, WebSockets technology, redirects, caching, FastCGI, etc.

Key Features

  • No Dependency
  • Serves Gzip compression and headers
  • Supports IPv6
  • Virtual Hosting
  • URL rewriting
  • Support WebSockets technology

8. Hiawatha Web Server

list of different types of web servers

Hiawatha is a secure, lightweight, and easy-to-use web server for Unix. Written in C programming language, the Hiawatha webserver design was built for speed and security. The advanced features make your webserver highly secure and can stop SQL injections, or XSS and CSRF attacks. You also keep an eye on your web server through a special monitoring tool

 

Further, it is easy to install and run the webserver via the documentation guide. It is best suitable for old servers with low specifications or embedded systems.

Key Features

  • Support for Chroot, CGI, load balancing
  • FastCGI support
  • SSL and TLS support
  • HTTP compression using gzip
  • Internal file caching
  • Supports traffic shaping
  • IPv6 support
  • Large file support
  • Virtual Hosting

9. Cherokee Web Server

cherokee web server

Cherokee is an open source, cross platform Web server that runs on Linux, Mac OS X, Solaris, and BSD. The web server is highly flexible, lightweight, fast, and has a friendly web based interface. Initially, the design was created for a personal development project but later gained popularity due to its simplicity. To run and work on this server, one does not require expertise in command line configuration. It also supports widespread technologies, including traffic shaping, video streaming, VirtualHosts, Apache compatible log files, content caching, etc.

Key Features

  • Manage concurrent connections on low memory
  • Improves hardware performance
  • Supports FastCGI, CGI, SSI, SCGI
  • TLS support
  • Supports SSL encrypted connections
  • Load balancing
  • Reverse HTTP proxy

10. H2O Web Server

examples of web servers

H2O is a C language new generation open source HTTP server available under the MIT license. The main objective to design and built H2O is to create full featured HTTP/2 implementations. The webserver supports server push, WebSockets and TLS, latency optimization, prioritized content serving. Written in the C programming language, the software offers faster response time with less CPU utilization in comparison to the other old generation web servers.

Key Features

  • Written in C programming language
  • Server push support
  • WebSockets and TLS support
  • Provides Faster response time with less CPU utilization
  • TCP Fast Open
  • Reverse proxy
  • Static file serving
  • HTTP/1.0, HTTP/1.1, HTTP/2 support
  • FastCGI support

Conclusion

So, which one according to you, sounds like one of the best open source web servers? It is not easy to pick one, install, and start using — much depends on the above listed key features. You need to analyze and find out which webserver is most vital to you. Each one has its pros and cons, compare their features and then make a final call.

Avatar for Hitesh Jethva
Hitesh Jethva

I am a fan of open source technology and have more than 10 years of experience working with Linux and Open Source technologies. I am one of the Linux technical writers for Cloud Infrastructure Services.

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