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nginx compiles quickly enough that a script for "service nginx reload" could recompile and replace the binary, and it will only be a little slower than "service apache reload" will be.

It's like a sausage, you can enjoy eating it without seeing how it's made.

Can Apache or other httpd's do the same live upgrading trick that Nginx has? Seems like a really wild feature.

I don't think any other popular http server support this. If there's a web server written in Erlang, you can be sure that is available (it's a core Erlang feature).

But apache can let you load a new .so without recompiling (or even restarting) the main server, which, for most intents and purposes, gives you equivalent functionality.

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