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v1.3 is dead, long live v2.3!

The Apache HTTP Server team recently released 1.3.42, the final release of the hugely-popular 1.3 codebase. I wrote a bit about our reasoning, and where we’re going next, in response to some questions from El Reg. A lot of people have been asking about the decision to stop support for 1.3, so I thought I’d republish what I wrote.

Overview

In June 1999, the Apache Software Foundation was incorporated in Delaware.

A year previously, Apache HTTP Server 1.3.0 had been released, and it was rapidly becoming the most popular web server on the planet.

Not known for resting on their laurels, it was barely nine months later that the Apache HTTP Server team released the first alpha of Version 2.0. This was a significant rewrite of much of the original code, focused on improving modularization and portability. It made general release in April 2002, and remained best-of-breed until Version 2.2.0 came out in December 2005.

More than ten years and forty revisions later, Apache HTTP Server 1.3 has reached end-of-life status. Version 2.2 has been available for more than four years, and is widely deployed across the internet. Although critical security fixes may be released as patches for Version 1.3, there will be no further releases or support from the Apache HTTP Server team. We encourage all users of Version 1.3 to upgrade to Version 2.2 as soon as possible.

If you’ve been reading closely, you might be wondering what happened to 2.1, and what the developers were doing between April 2002 and December 2005? Since the advent of Version 2.0, the Apache HTTP Server team have reserved even-numbered minor versions for stable versions of the software. The odd-numbered minor versions are made public as alpha and beta releases, allowing developers to try out the bleeding edge of new features, and giving module authors a chance to prepare their software for the next release.

For anyone working on code that integrates with the Apache HTTP Server, these odd-numbered revisions are your best opportunity to request changes in the API, before it is released as stable!

The current best-of-breed stable version of Apache HTTP Server is Version 2.2.14, released in September 2009. But if you’re already itching to take Version 2.4 for a test drive, you can get a headstart by installing the alpha Version 2.3.5, released just last month. This version includes significant improvements to caching and proxying behaviour, and will eventually be released as Version 2.4.

Why will the 1.3 code no longer be supported or updated?

As I previously mentioned, Apache HTTP Server 1.3.0 was originally released in June 1998. To put that in perspective, it would be another three weeks before Microsoft Windows 98 became available, a product which, despite significant commercial support, reached end-of-life four years ago. The first production 1GHz processors didn’t ship for another two years; today, if you want to buy a 1GHz processor, you’re probably in the market for a new phone!

Version 2 is a significant improvement over 1.3. The API has been rewritten to prevent many of the problems with module ordering and priority. Better support exists for non-Unix platforms, and smart filtering is now available. Version 2.0 includes support for IPv6 and multiple protocols, while Version 2.2 adds LFS, enabling you to serve files over 2GB in size. The core modules for authentication and authorisation have been greatly improved, as well as subsystems from caching to proxying.

In short, technology and the Internet have come a long way in the last twelve years, and Version 1.3 is simply no longer the best-of-breed solution it once was.

What has happened to 2.0? What should 1.3/2.0 users do now?

Version 2.0 continues to enjoy bugfix releases, but does not see active development.

We encourage all users to upgrade to Apache HTTP Server 2.2.14.

What’s the planned features roadmap and release schedule for the next version?

The Apache HTTP Server team release software when it’s ready – we prefer to ensure that our releases represent the best software available, rather than worrying about shipping deadlines. Features currently under development include further updates to auth modules, as well as state-of-the-art cache and proxy modules. If you’re impatient to try these things, you can check out Version 2.3.5 (alpha). Or, if you’d prefer a more academic look at the subject, you might enjoy Roy Fielding’s presentation, “Apache 3.0 (A Tall Tale)”.

Key facts

  • Apache HTTP Server Version 1.3 has now reached end-of-life status.
  • The current best-of-breed stable version of the Apache HTTP Server is Version 2.2.14 – we encourage all users to upgrade to this version as soon as possible.
  • For those who prefer to try out new features as soon as they become available, Version 2.3.5 provides an alpha preview of what will become stable Version 2.4.
  • The latest version of the Apache HTTP Server is always available from our download page.

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