Google, Microsoft blogging services driving web growth

The popularity of blogging services, particularly those of Google and Microsoft, has driven an increase of more than 4 million websites since last month, an Internet services company said Tuesday.

The number of websites increased more than 4 percent to 96.9 million, according to a September survey by Netcraft. The number of sites has soared by 15.5 million since June.

Two trends are responsible for the growth: the popularity of blogging services and the heated competition between Microsoft and Google. Microsoft has had "huge growth" in its Windows Live Spaces blogging/networking service, adding 1.3 million hostnames last month, Netcraft said. Google had a gain of 459,000 hostnames, primarily at Blogger. Both services are offered at no charge.

Free hosting services in general have driven site growth. In the first five months of the year, the Internet added an average of 2.75 million new hostnames per month, Netcraft said. Since June, the average has nearly doubled to 5.4 million sites per month.

Recent gains at free hosting services have begun to outpace growth at paid services, Netcraft said. While the two services are not often comparable in terms of the kind of subscribers they attract, the trend is still worth noting.

"The success of these (free) services in recent months represents a growing challenge to traditional hosts, especially as they gain usage among small businesses, typically a key target market for paid hosting," Netcraft said.

Meanwhile, Microsoft grabbed a bigger share of the web server software market last month, gaining 1.1 percent to 30 percent of the market. Market leader Apache fell by 0.9 percent to 63 percent.

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