From the humble beginnings of fewer than a dozen software engineers sharing code patches via email in February of 1995, to the incorporation of the ASF in June of 1999, to the years of slow growth as the concept of open source percolated into the everyday vernacular, to the ASF of today with hundreds of projects spanning the technology spectrum, the history of the ASF is really about the growth of its communities. On this page, you can learn more about the Foundation’s origins and key milestones.
Evolving from the original eight developers (collectively known as "the Apache Group") who contributed code enhancements to the NCSA daemon Web server, the ASF was incorporated in 1999 as a U.S. 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. This ensured that the original HTTP Project and all subsequent projects would continue to exist beyond the participation of individual volunteers.
ASF co-founder Brian Behlendorf first used the name “Apache” for the server. The use of the name “Apache” shows appreciation for the people and tribes who refer to themselves as “Apache.” As the Apache HTTP Server grew from patches applied to the NCSA Server, a pun on the name quickly spread amongst members of the community, with the rumor being that “Apache” actually stood for “a ‘patchy’ server.”. As time passed, the popularity of the “A Patchy Server” story grew: rumor became lore, and lore became legend.
The ASF's successful collaborative, meritocratic technology and community development process known as "The Apache Way" is both highly emulated by other open source foundations and the subject of numerous industry case studies and business school curricula. Each Apache project is overseen by a Project Management Committee (PMC), a self-selected team of active contributors that guides the project's day-to-day operations, including community development and product releases.
Billions of users benefit from the ASF’s freely available open source software: countless non-ASF-developed software applications have been distributed under the terms of the popular, business-friendly Apache License. By allowing source code to be used for the development of any software –both open source and proprietary– the Apache License makes it easy for all users to implement and deploy Apache products.
The Foundation provides organizational, legal, and financial support for the incubation and development of new projects, and minimizes the potential legal exposure of intellectual property and financial contributions.
The Apache community actively participates in ASF mailing lists, mentoring initiatives, and ApacheCon, the Foundation's official user conference, trainings, and expo. This flagship event, now known as Community Over Code, along with smaller events such as the Apache Roadshow, continues to draw attendees from all over the world to embrace ”Tomorrow’s Technology Today” through unparalleled educational, collaboration, and networking opportunities.
As a charitable organization, the ASF is funded through tax-deductible contributions from corporations, foundations, and private individuals. The ASF runs a very lean operation, spending 10% or less on overhead. Critical Infrastructure support services keep Apache bandwidth, connectivity, servers, and hardware running 24x7x365 at near 100% uptime. Donations to the ASF also help offset day-to-day operating expenses such as legal and accounting services, brand management, public relations, and general office expenditures.
Until the third quarter of 2021, the ASF used a system of download mirrors to make Apache product releases conveniently available for free download around the world. The mirror system depended on generous contributions of resources and effort by organizations of many kinds (universities, non-profits, corporations and others), and the ASF could not have functioned as it has done without their support.
The ASF now uses a global content distribution network (CDN) to respond quickly and accurately to download requests from any part of the globe, at any time of day.
You can review highlights for each year since the inception of ASF in 1999. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list and certainly does not capture project-level history–rather it’s a high-level summary of key Foundation milestones.
The pages of the Apache History Project capture additional history of the ASF, starting from its first and arguably most important software project, the Apache™ HTTP Web Server project - the web server often simply called "Apache."
Apache HTTP is important not only as an excellent piece of software, but as an example of how free, community-driven software development is supposed to work. These history pages highlight important historical events and important philosophical decisions made over the years which have made Apache successful.
We could use your help! As always, patches are welcome! The best place to get involved is with the Community Development project if you're interested in helping. They have a public mailing list for community discussions available to all.
Since all Apache project development happens on publicly-archived mailing lists, and since all Apache project code is in source control (SVN or git), all the raw data of activities of Apache projects are available to view.
For source code, there are various sites to visualize the changes, which include virtually all Apache source code:
Similarly, mailing lists used by projects are all archived: