Hoping to counter the public perception that the open-source Apache web server is losing ground to Microsoft's Internet Information Services (IIS), Linux advocate Bruce Perens has launched a free domain-parking service.

Launched last week, the OpenSourceParking.com offered users a free place to "park" their unused web domains. By parking websites that have been registered, but not yet put into use, Perens hopes to boost Apache's market share numbers.

Instead of returning an error message, websites that have been parked return a page indicating that the site has been registered, but isn't yet operational. Often these parked pages include advertisements, generating revenue for the service provider that has parked them.

Last month domain registrar GoDaddy.com migrated 4.5 million such domains from servers running Apache to those based on IIS, a move that contributed to Apache's 5.9 per cent drop in market share, according to the most recent web server usage numbers reported by Netcraft.

This drop in market share may give some IT managers the false impression that IIS is making gains on Apache, said Perens, vice president of professional services with open-source vendor Sourcelabs Inc.

"Microsoft is going to take this figure and say, "5 per cent of all qeb servers switched from Apache to Microsoft IIS, why isn't your server doing so?'" Perens said. "So rather than sit every manager in the world down and explain the real back-story, I would just say 'Let's take some wind out of Microsoft's sales.' "

To date, however, it's been Apache - and not IIS - that's received the biggest market-share boost from parked domains, according to Rich Miller, a Netcraft analyst, who said in a recent blog posting that more domain-parking services use Apache software than IIS.

Go Daddy is the second major registrar to shift its services to Microsoft's products, following eNom. Other major registrars do not use Microsoft's software, Miller said.

When Netcraft's most recent server numbers were adjusted to include only active domains, Apache still saw its market share drop, although by a smaller percentage. Netcraft's "active" number for April show that Apache had a market share of 64.9 per cent, down 2.3 per cent from the pervious month. Microsoft's IIS was running on 26 per cent of web servers, up nearly 1 per cent during the same period.