Apache mulls end of 1.3, 2.0 releases

Stable version still gaining ground

The Apache Software Foundation (ASF) may stop releasing new versions of the older 1.3 and 2.0 series of its flagship Web server product with most development now focused on the 2.2 series.

The Apache HTTP server project is one of the most successful and popular (the most popular Web server on the Internet since 1996, say its makers) open source projects and has become an integral part of the technology stack for thousands of Web and SaaS applications.

In a message to the Apache httpd developer mailing list, ASF member Colm MacCárthaigh postulated the formal deprecation of the 1.3.x branch, citing a lack of development activity.

“How about we formally deprecate the 1.3.x branch? Make one more release, but attach a notice to the effect that it will be the final release, and that in future we'll be distributing security updates by other means,” MacCárthaigh wrote.

Other subscribers to the list generally agreed the 1.3 series should be depreciated, saying it will make end-user support easier.

The developers anticipate a formal end-of-life statement from the ASF will be the encouragement most of the people using 1.3.x need to move “into the new century” and on to 2.2.x.

Moreover, another list member suggested issuing a statement on how much longer the 2.0.x series will be supported as “it doesn't seem to get much maintenance attention these days either”.

The first generation of Apache was released in 1995 and the 2.0 series began in 2002. Apache httpd 2.2 began in 2005 with the latest release (October 2009) being 2.2.14.

The most recent releases of the 1.3 and 2.0 series servers was in January 2008.

January 2010 Web server survey figures from Netcraft show Apache is serving about 53 per cent of the known Web sites on the Internet.

This translates to about 111 million out of 206 million and the ratio is higher among the “million busiest sites” at 66 per cent.

Apache gained some 3 million host names compared to the December 2009 survey and there remain a large number of Apache 1.3 and 2.0 series Web servers in production.

Security Space’s Web Server Survey for January 1, 2010 indicates Apache 1.3.41 serves more than 1.7 million domains (4.26%) and the most popular of the 2.0 series, 2.0.52, still running more than 1 million (2.58%).

With the combined total of active 1.3 and 2.0 series Apache Web servers well into the millions, any decision to end-of-life either product is certain to spark wide interest.

Peter Lieverdink, director of IT at Melbourne-based open source consulting firm Creative Contingencies and co-author of Pro Linux System Administration (Apress, 2009), says if Apache 1.3 and 2.0 were discontinued it would not cause significant problems for end-users.

“Having the Apache developers focused on a single branch for security and improvements is probably a good thing,” Lieverdink said, adding 2.2 has been around for a long time now.

Lieverdink said although an Apache configuration can’t just be copied across from one major release to another, the requirements are documented so it’s not difficult to upgrade.

“People might want to run Apache 1.3 because it’s more lightweight, but these days you would try lighttpd as there is more development going on with it,” he said.

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