TL; DR: W3Techs, a division of the consulting company Q-Success, has published an annual report covering statistics and trends in web technology usage since 2010. This year’s edition, Web Technologies of the Year 2020, reflects an industry uniquely impacted by unprecedented turmoil. Several products and services demonstrated significant growth across the site-building, development, and system administration spaces. This year’s upsets include Shopify’s dominance of the hosting provider category ahead of Google, and strong growth on the part of Cloudflare in the web server space, overtaking LiteSpeed. Many other technologies, including WordPress and cdnjs, maintained a stronghold in their respective categories.
W3Techs, founded in 2009, is one of the best sources on the web for unbiased market research and surveys on everything from hosting providers and popular content management systems to server-side programming languages. It’s a trusted place where writers, consumers, and tech enthusiasts can gather the latest and most reliable tech stats, with no hidden agendas to uncover.
In April 2020, Matthias Gelbmann, Founder and Owner of W3Techs, told us the site’s firm commitment to accuracy set it apart from competitors.
“I believe it’s important to have the most accurate statistics you can get,” he said at the time. “Our strong point is that, whereas others concentrate on providing leads for marketing purposes, we focus on providing accurate statistics. Our company has no affiliation with any of the technology providers that we cover in our surveys.”
In addition to surveys updated daily and monthly market reports, the company has been publishing its annual Web Technologies of the Year report since 2010.
Researchers at W3Techs calculated the difference between the number of websites using the technology on January 1, 2020, and the number reported on January 1, 2021. “We use the difference of these numbers, rather than a percentage because that would favor technologies with a tiny user base at the beginning of the year,” the report states.
This year’s winners — the web technologies that saw the largest increase in annual usage across their respective categories — did so within the context of an unusual and unexpected year for the tech industry. We’ve seen it firsthand here at HostingAdvice. In the hundreds of company profiles our team published this year, business leaders shared a common epiphany: that the global pandemic had accelerated technical adoption.
CEO Satya Nadella’s statement during a Microsoft earnings call in late April 2020 says it all: “As COVID-19 impacts every aspect of our work and life, we have seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.”
Building Online Presence: Hosting and Content Management Systems
Let’s kick off our overview of W3Tech’s Web Technologies of the Year 2020 with a topic near and dear to our hearts — building an online presence. As our readers know, the task is impossible without some form of web hosting provider.
In its surveys, W3Techs defines a web host as any company that “provides hardware and software infrastructure to enable webmasters to make their website accessible via the internet.”
In 2020, for the first time ever, Shopify took the lead as W3Tech’s Web Technologies of the Year in the Web Hosting Providers category, followed by Google.
Google earned the title in 2019. Winners of previous years include the Endurance Group (2018), GoDaddy Group (2017), and Amazon (2016).
Shopify’s ascent to the top of the list makes sense considering its rapid growth in the fiscal year 2019. According to Statista, Shopify generated more than $900 million in merchant solutions and approximately $642 million in subscription solutions that year.
WordPress led the market in 2020 in a related category, Content Management Systems, for the 11th year in a row. W3Techs includes all systems used to create and manage website content in this category, including wikis, blog engines, discussion boards, static site generators, website editors, and any type of software that provides website content.
2020 was also a big year for content delivery networks (CDNs), or geographically distributed groups of servers designed to reduce delays delivering website content by minimizing the physical distance between a server and end user.
Ruby was ranked as the fastest-growing language in the Server-side Programming category in 2020 for the third year in a row. The W3Techs report credits the fact that Shopify is written in Ruby as giving the language an edge in 2020.
Web Administration: Operating Systems and Web Servers
Unix, known for its support of multitasking and multiuser systems, came in as the top Operating System of the Year 2020. The W3Techs definition of Unix includes Unix-like systems such as Linux.
From 2010 through 2018, Nginx took the lead in Web Technologies of the Year within the Web Server category, defined by W3Techs as “programs that enable a computer to present web pages on the internet.”
W3Techs attributed that trend to the fact that the Cloudflare CDN previously used the Nginx web server before tailoring the software to its own internal needs. In 2020, Cloudflare Server — the product of that modification — took the lead as the W3Techs Web Technologies of the Year in the Web Server category. According to W3Techs, this shift is related to the Cloudflare service’s strong growth in 2020.
2020’s Impact on the Future
There’s no doubt that the 2020 pandemic forced businesses worldwide to adopt remote workplaces, rapid web development strategies, and internet-based modes of operation.
These shifts likely affected the results presented in Web Technologies of the Year 2020, although W3Techs does not research cause and effect.
With many companies embracing permanent work-from-home policies moving forward, many of the trends formed in 2020 may become standards in the future. But we won’t know for sure what products and services will come out on top until W3Techs releases its next annual report.