At first I thought Lighttpd was the cat's meow. After talking with Andrei (who maintains PHP-FPM) I thought - if he got PHP-FPM right, he must know his stuff. He recommended I try nginx - and boy am I glad I did.
Igor is an interesting character to me. He is very matter-of-fact, he has no problem issuing patches almost instantly to enhance his product, and he also has no problem being short with people when rejecting an idea or informing them they're wrong. To me it seems like sometimes people who maintain projects try to be more politically correct, but from what I've seen, Igor seems to be extremely technical by heart, and does not really stop to smell the flowers (at least on the mailing list...)
Igor gets mad props for creating nginx - quite possibly the most efficient web/proxy server on earth. For a bit I was using it to proxy 4+ million web requests a day (small php, html, graphics and even larger file and video downloads) through a single server, doing gzip as well - and it handled it all without using more than 14 megs of physical RAM. Nginx is such an engineering feat that I've actually started contemplating how to re-do my architecture since it is totally viable now to have a single frontend server proxying all the dynamic requests to dedicated FastCGI servers. No need really to be running multiple nginx instances anymore... one handles everything!
Anyway, back to Igor - my new goal in life is not only to help promote PHP-FPM but now nginx as well. There's only a couple minor things I wish nginx would do a bit better, but otherwise, it is my web solution and possibly even my proxy solution to replace LVS. Who would have thought a userland daemon could be so efficient? Even though Igor maintains nginx almost 100% by himself, releases come out often, he can produce patches to fix bugs or add features within a couple hours, and he usually replies to emails within the same day on the mailing list. I haven't seen that level of support from any other open source project, much less commercial products. "Want a patch? Wait for our next release in six months!"
Igor's website is at http://sysoev.ru/en/, however it doesn't really have much info on it - and you'll probably be looking for nginx at http://nginx.net/ anyway. Thanks Igor 🙂
Thank god for Postfix. Simple to configure. Damn near secure. So much nicer than messing with sendmail or qmail. Not to mention numerous papers on security, and it looks like he's also worked on patches to introduce taint checking into PHP. Not to mention creating the TCP wrappers library. He's all over the place.
His website here: http://www.porcupine.org/wietse/
He's created one of the most useful tools in web development: Firebug. Also created the iUI (an iPhone-optimized UI) library. Of course Facebook has him on payroll now as well.
His personal website here: http://joehewitt.com
The PHP team deserves all the kudos in the world. I love PHP, and for the most part PHP has loved me. Between the four of these guys, you've got a large portion of PHP, Xdebug, APC and countless other related projects and modules. They've made web development a joy for me, when I don't have to write for lame projects that is.
Their personal websites: http://lerdorf.com/ (Rasmus), http://derickrethans.nl/ (Derick), http://netevil.org/ (Wez), http://ilia.ws/ (Ilia)
Back when I was trying to tune MySQL more, I wound up on Jeremy's site a lot. Yahoo has him on payroll, and he probably gets paid for being a general technical genius with specialties in MySQL and LAMPish development.
His personal website: http://jeremy.zawodny.com/
Steven has spearheaded a lot of great work with the memcached project. Not only that, but his insights on the mailing list have been interesting to read. Steven and his team at Facebook have made great improvements to the memcached project and have also helped with various PHP related modules (APC for instance.) Of course, it is always fun to read more information about their architecture too.
LiveJournal used to be the king. Nowadays with Facebook and Myspace it's moved down the totem pole. However, being king for a while did produce some cool stuff that Brad (and team) has been graceful enough to share. Probably the most popular is memcached, but MogileFS is pretty damn cool too. I also get a kick out of reading the history of their crazy LiveJournal server architecture.
His personal website: http://bradfitz.com/
Jan must write C and Lua in his sleep. He's behind Lighttpd, MySQL Proxy, XCache and who knows what else. He seems to be working on multiple projects all the time and making advances in them constantly. Not only creating new features out of need, but also just to see if it would work...
His personal website: http://jan.kneschke.de/
His personal website: http://ejohn.org/