When comparing WCF vs Web API, it is really hard to make a choice. These frameworks often overlap each other in terms of functionality and approach. It goes without saying that the final decision between these technologies will have a great impact on the project in the long-term. In this article, we will explore the key features and use-cases of WPF and Web API to help you make sure that the selected technology will suit your development needs best.
Web API Fundamentals
The framework, ASP.NET Web API, is used to develop HTTP services that can be used by clients using mobiles, browsers, and tablets. It’s similar to ASP.NET MVC because it is comprised of MVC features such as routing, controllers, filter, action results, IOC containers, model binders, and dependency injection. It isn’t a part of the MVC Framework, though. It’s an aspect of the core ASP.NET platform which can be used with MVC and similar web applications such as ASP.NET WebForms. It can also act as an individual web services application.
- HTTP services are easily built with this new framework.
- Web API is open source, making it the perfect platform to create RESTful services over the .NET Framework.
- As opposed to WCF Rest service, it uses the complete features of HTTP (such as response/request headers, URIs, caching, versioning, and numerous content formats).
- MVC features support controllers, routing, filter, action results, IOC container, model binders, or dependency injection, and unit testing that simplifies it and makes it more robust.
- It can be hosted on IIS or within the application.
- Its lightweight design makes it ideal for devices with minimal bandwidth.
- Replies are formatted by Web API’s MediaTypeFormatter into XML, JSON, or any other format you wish to add as a MediaTypeFormatter.
Why ASP.NET Web API?
Nowadays, a web-based application is insufficient to target new customers. People are intelligent; they are using mobile devices on a regular basis. Such devices come with plenty of apps to simplify users’ lives. In fact, we are progressing from the web towards apps more and more with each passing day.
If you want to showcase your service data to the browsers and modern device apps quickly and easily, you must have an API that is compatible with all devices and browsers. For instance, Facebook, Twitter, and Google APIs are used to develop both phone apps and web applications.
If making a direct WCF vs Web API comparison, Web API is the ideal framework for showcasing your data and services to various devices. Further, Web API is open source, making it the perfect platform for creating RESTful services over the .NET Framework. As opposed to the WCF Rest service, it uses the complete features of HTTP (such as response/request headers, URIs, versioning, caching, and numerous content formats). Also, you needn’t establish any additional configuration settings for individual devices, as opposed to the WCF Rest service.
WCF in a Nutshell
Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) is used to produce an interoperable and distributed application. WCF applications were introduced in .NET 3.0. Service-oriented applications are created with this framework. Other uses include:
- Only HTTP protocol is supported.
- It is based on return data and SOAP in XML format.
- Only IIS can host it.
- Any client who understands XML can use it, but it is not open-source.
- It supports HTTP POST and GET verbs via the [WebInvoke] and [WebGet] attributes.
- webHttpBindings must be enabled if WCF as WCF Rest service use is required.
- Sending data via parameters using a WebGet warrants configuration. The UriTemplate must be specific.
- To allow other HTTP verbs, you need to configure IIS to accept .svc file requests.
- JSON, XML, and ATOM data formats are supported.
If you have a couple of clients, and one wishes to use a Web Service, which transmits data through the network using HTTP protocol and wants to respond in XML format, we will develop a web service.
We can also transmit the data using a web service through the network with TCP protocol and respond in binary format. We would use the TCP protocol to implement a remote web service.
In this scenario, we must develop a couple of individual services for a couple of separate clients. WCF resolves this issue, as it allows one service to be used by a pair of individual clients, whether they want a different protocol or the same one. We address the protocol name and the web service’s endpoint attribute. All these factors give WCF advantage in the WCF vs Web API competition.
WCF vs Web API
Choosing a Microsoft stack as our main suite technologies for the development of custom software, we’ve gone through the many hard decisions that come from deciding between WCF vs Web API. Here are few examples according to the common categories that will make things easier for you.
When comparing WCF vs Web API, both frameworks have accepted security standards. With regards to WCF, skilled security pros and frameworks can offer protection on an enterprise-level, which includes security that adheres to the WS-I (Web Services Interoperability Organization) guidelines. In Web API, general web standards are utilized for security, like tokens and basic authentication, in addition to more complicated web standards like OAuth. If correctly enforced, security in both frameworks will be as effective as the other, keeping in mind that several organizations sometimes want precise implementations of protection. However, RESTful services offer more adaptability than SOAP, which can be helpful when authenticating an outside service like Google, Windows Live IDs, Twitter, or Facebook.
As illustrated earlier, SOAP services must be action-oriented, and OData/REST must be very resource-oriented. While all action-oriented service can be changed to a resource-oriented service, there are several instances where a single SOAP may result in numerous REST calls; this produces extra overhead in calling the service, makes the client’s code more complicated, and may result in data problems in badly developed systems. Properly developed REST services must have the ability to mitigate this with indirect steps. For instance, a SOAP call that buys a product for a consumer may:
- Produce an order.
- Minimize the item’s stock quantity.
- Produce a new shipping job.
- Update the customer’s order history and details.
That individual SOAP call might lead to a quartet of individual REST calls updating all of those resources, or, in a correctly developed system, one produce (POST) PurchaseOrder call that stimulates actions to update the remaining resources as needed. In short, RESTful services must be basic and atomic, yet SOAP services have the adaptability to be complicated and bulky.
Because they can be accessed freely in URLs, REST services are easier to find than SOAP services. Additionally, proper REST services are smart enough to establish as far as idempotency and endpoints are concerned.
For instance, www.domainname.com/api/Employees/1 gives the staff an ID of 1, then it’s simple enough to establish that www.domainname.com/api/Employee/2 gives the staff member \ an ID of 2. As long as you understand that the service is also comprised of customers, it’s simple to establish that www.domainname.com/api/Client/1 gives the customer an ID of 1. Just as smart, using the HTTP actions can represent the call’s idempotency in REST services. For instance, a PUT operation must be idempotent because you’re using precise values to update fields. A similar call in a SOAP service might not be as simple to establish regardless of whether it is or isn’t idempotent.
On the client’s end, it’s easy to use HTTP to call a RESTful service, but deserializing and serializing items, hardcoding resource endpoints, and reproducing personalized returnable classes can be troublesome; minimal-level engagement with the web service is abstracted in SOAP services automatically on your behalf. As far as the service side is concerned, WCF is comprised of lots of configurations and warrants meticulous XML work to configure it properly. Web API, on the other hand, has a more regular ready-to-use setup that is effective for a majority of services and offers personalized services that prolong the base services, like media type formatters that take care of serialization when necessary.
RESTful services, as well as Web API, concentrates on ease of use and being lightweight. Using the same HTTP calls, all applications that can access a website can access RESTful service as well. If you’re directly comparing WCF vs Web API this is different from SOAP, as the client needs to know the web service inside-and-out when using the WSDL file. The WSDL configuration supplements some intricacies and warrants extra details that may not be accessible on some devices (smart TVs, phones, and the like) as well as frameworks and programming languages.
Because RESTful services use only basic HTTP, the response and request packets are usually smaller than SOAP response and request packets, which package objects, parameters, metadata, etc. in an XML payload. This is vital to consider when handling low bandwidth or mobile devices. The easy HTTP response/request also is usually easier for people to read than SOAP response/requests; though that is not as important because these services tend to be programmatically consumed.
How to Choose Between WCF vs Web API
Select WCF when you want to produce a service that would benefit specific situations like one-way messaging, message queues, duplex communication, message queues, etc.
Select WCF when you want to produce a service that uses quick transport channels when available, such as Named Pipes, TCP, or perhaps even UDP (in WCF 5). You would also need support for HTTP when other transport channels aren’t available.
Select Web API when you want to produce resource-related services over HTTP that utilize the complete features of HTTP (such as response/request headers, URIs, versioning, caching, and numerous content formats).
Select Web API when you want to display your service to a wide variety of clients with mobiles, browsers, and tablets.
It’s not possible to select a winner in the WCF vs Web API competition and state that one option is definitively better than the other. There is an easy method of establishing which framework is most suitable when developing a new web service. If it’s an internet/external web service, use Web API; if it’s an intranet/internal web service, use WCF.