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Getting More Out Of Apache (part 1)
Learn to use server-side includes and Apache's virtual hosting features.

| Genesis |

Of the diverse open-source applications currently available, perhaps the most impressive success stories are those of the Linux kernel and the Apache Web server. The story behind the Linux kernel is a well-known one - the tireless efforts of Linus Torvalds and his team of developers to create an open, stable and scalable operating system - but perhaps less well-known is the story of how the Apache project began, and how it has grown to the point where 60% of the Web runs on Apache.

The Apache project began in 1995, as a collaborative effort between a group of webmasters who wanted to build a "robust and commercial-grade implementation of the HTTP protocol" (Apache.org), and make this available to the user community absolutely free of charge. Originally conceived as a series of patches to the original NCSA httpd daemon, the project ultimately took on a life of its own, with the NCSA daemon undergoing several redesigns in order to make it more extensible and modular.

The end result (perhaps that's not the right phrase, since the Apache server is continuously evolving) is a Web server that's powerful enough to meet the needs of both large and small Web sites, yet simple enough to configure that you can get it up and running on your UNIX (or Windows) system in less than five minutes.

The popularity of Apache among Web site administrators and developers can be judged from recent Netcraft findings, which reveal that 15,414,726 Web sites, or a little over 60% of the total Web sites on the Internet, run on Apache (http://www.netcraft.com/survey/). Pretty impressive for a program that began life as a series of patches (incidentally, the term "Apache Server" is derived from the words "A PAtCHy Server" - a bow to Apache's genesis as a series of patches applied to an existing httpd daemon)

Now, while the out-of-the-box Apache configuration is usually more than satisfactory for those without special requirements, Apache does allow you to customize its behaviour extensively. Most of this customization takes place via the Apache configuration file, "httpd.conf", and is implemented via directives in this file.

Across this article and the next, I'll be discussing some of the more interesting things you can do with Apache, both to help you maximize your usage of the Web server and to increase your familiarity with some of the features hidden under the hood of this wonderful piece of software.


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