The Future of Open Source in Web Hosting
Web hosting as an industry is not considered nearly as glamorous as other areas of the technology field, such as financial or medical technology. Web hosting industry nevertheless plays a major part in the future of the internet and open-source software. After all, most websites are hosted by a web hosting company, and those companies run thousands upon thousands of servers globally to power the websites we as people frequent.
By using more open-source technologies themselves, the hosting companies could start a major push towards a more open world of technology and software, and more importantly, hosting companies could influence the mindset of their customers, the people. WordPress, an open-source content management system at the core of Seravo’s business, is already used to power approximately 30% of the websites in the whole world. Imagine the results if the web hosting industry took more deliberate steps in promoting open-source.
The open-source potential in the web hosting industry is enormous, and as we’ve discovered already, two-fold. There are the servers and technologies used by the web hosts themselves, and then there are the customers. Now, it would be easy to dismiss the concept of open-source by saying that it’s impossible to run a sustainable, profitable business, by using open-source technologies instead of the commercially provided industry standards such as cPanel and LiteSpeed, but open-source alternatives already exist.
Do bear in mind that I’m not suggesting that every web host should stop using cPanel tomorrow and switch over to the open-source alternatives, such as Webmin, but rather the point is to show that there are alternatives available to cPanel and other commercial control panels. The will to go open-source must come from within the hosting companies and should be implemented gradually to ensure continuous operations and customer satisfaction, but there are options out there.
LiteSpeed, which is a proprietary web server software built to replace the open-source, and admittedly occasionally rather sluggish, Apache as the web server. Luckily, LiteSpeed is not as widely-used as cPanel, due to the reason that there are highly comparable open-source alternatives to LiteSpeed, namely NGINX and the combination of Apache and NGINX acting as a reverse proxy. Supporting the development of Apache and NGINX by choosing them over proprietary technologies such as LiteSpeed allows for the web hosting industry to not only retain more control over the software running on their servers, but also increases the level of knowledge of open-source technologies.
Moving on from the more challenging server-side technologies, let’s take a look at the far easier and faster to implement change to promote open-source software: the customers. The web hosting industry is already providing customers with one-click installers to install open-source software such as WordPress, Drupal and PrestaShop, resulting in a high percentage of their customers using open-source software. However, there are still companies pushing website builders, that are closed source and potentially very binding for the customer. By promoting and using open-source software such as WordPress, the web host does not bind the customer to using their hosting.
The changes to server-side software, web servers and control panels cannot be done overnight by the web hosts, maybe not even in the next two or three years. But we must start somewhere and supporting open-source by promoting it to our clients is a good place to start.