In the fast-paced web development environment, there exist several frameworks and technologies that allow programmers to create HTTP services such as WCF and Web API. However, deciding which platform to utilize in your project can be daunting, considering that many of them often overlap in terms of approach and functionality. In this write-up, we will take an in-depth look at the key features and differences between WCF and Web API to help you choose the technology that aligns with your development needs.
What is WCF?
WCF is the short form of Windows Communication Foundation, and it is basically a framework that is used for the creation of distributed and interoperable applications. This platform came into the limelight in .Net 3.0 Framework. It is commonly utilized for Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), which is renowned for building reliable, secure, and transaction-oriented service.
WCF is built to develop SOAP-based services and bindings, and thus it utilizes standard XML schema over HTTP. This platform is ideal for things like message queues, end-to-end message security, duplex communication, distributed transaction, and one way messaging, among others. WCF allows you to send data asynchronously from one end to the next.
What is Web API?
A Web API is basically an open-source platform for building RESTful services over the .NET Framework. It is an authentic type of interface for creating HTTP services that can be consumed by a wide range of clients, including mobile devices, browsers, tablets, and iPhones. As the name suggests, a Web API is an over the internet API that is accessible through HTTP protocol. Initially, Web APIs were known as Web services, but today, the use of the latter indicates that the API is RESTful, instead of following the SOAP standard.
Web API supports the MVC features such as controllers, routing, filter, action results, IOC container, model binders, and dependency injection, among others. It also utilizes the full features of HTTP such as caching, URLs, request/response headers, versioning, and various content formats.
WCF vs WEB API: Differences/advantages of one over the other
When it comes to security, both WCF and Web API have accepted security standards. WCF can offer protection on enterprise-level, as it includes security protocols that adhere to WS-I guidelines. On the other hand, in Web API, security standards such as token and basic authentication are utilized. If appropriately enforced, security can be achieved in both frameworks.
WFC is SOAP-based and uses standard XML schema which can be a little slower. On the other hand, Web API can utilize any text format, including XML and thus is faster and the most preferred choice for lightweight services.
WCF is the ideal choice when you need to create a service that supports unique scenarios such as duplex communication, one way messaging and message queues, among others. Web API should be the option when you need to build resource-oriented services over HTTP that can utilize the full features of HTTP.
When you want to create a service that can use expedite transport channels when available such as Named Pipes, TCP, and even UDP, WCF is the ideal choice. Web API can be used when you want to expose an expansive range of clients including, mobile phones, iPhone, tablets, and browsers.
Summary: Web API vs WCF
|Protocol or architecture||Based on the SOAP-based protocol||Based on REST architecture|
|State management||Stateless||Stateless with per call|
|Content format||It supports any media format including XML, JSON and many others||Supports SOAP-based data formats + XML|
|Caching method||Built in to prefer application control||The application handles the cache.|
|Configuration||Supports MVC features||It supports extensive configuration|
|Proxy support||Doesn’t support client proxy initialization||It supports client proxy initialization like PerCall, Single or per session based on the requirement.|