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The Two Interceptors: HttpModule and HttpHandlers

By , 4 Mar 2009
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Table of Contents

Introduction

Many times we want to implement pre-processing logic before a request hits the IIS resources. For instance you would like to apply security mechanism, URL rewriting, filter something in the request, etc. ASP.NET has provided two types of interception HttpModule and HttpHandler. This article walks through it.

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The Problem

Many times we need to inject some kind of logic before the page is requested. Some of the commonly used pre-processing logics are stat counters, URL rewriting, authentication / authorization and many more. We can do this in the code behind but then that can lead to lot of complication and tangled code. The code behind will not solve the purpose because in some implementations like authorization, we want the logic to execute before it reaches the resource. ASP.NET provides two ways of injecting logic in the request pipeline HttpHandlers and HttpModules.

HttpHandler - The Extension Based Preprocessor

HttpHandler help us to inject pre-processing logic based on the extension of the file name requested. So when a page is requested, HttpHandler executes on the base of extension file names and on the base of verbs. For instance, you can visualize from the figure below how we have different handlers mapped to file extension. We can also map one handler to multiple file extensions. For instance, when any client requests for file with extension ‘GIF’ and ‘JPEG’, handler3 pre-processing logic executes.

HttpModule - The Event Based Preprocessor

HttpModule is an event based methodology to inject pre-processing logic before any resource is requested. When any client sends a request for a resource, the request pipeline emits a lot of events as shown in the figure below:

Below is a detailed explanation of the events. We have just pasted this from here.

  • BeginRequest: Request has been started. If you need to do something at the beginning of a request (for example, display advertisement banners at the top of each page), synchronize this event.
  • AuthenticateRequest: If you want to plug in your own custom authentication scheme (for example, look up a user against a database to validate the password), build a module that synchronizes this event and authenticates the user in a way that you want to.
  • AuthorizeRequest: This event is used internally to implement authorization mechanisms (for example, to store your access control lists (ACLs) in a database rather than in the file system). Although you can override this event, there are not many good reasons to do so.
  • PreRequestHandlerExecute: This event occurs before the HTTP handler is executed.
  • PostRequestHandlerExecute: This event occurs after the HTTP handler is executed.
  • EndRequest: Request has been completed. You may want to build a debugging module that gathers information throughout the request and then writes the information to the page.

We can register these events with the HttpModules. So when the request pipe line executes depending on the event registered, the logic from the modules is processed.

The Overall Picture of Handler and Modules

Now that we have gone through the basics, let's understand what is the Microsoft definition for handler and modules to get the overall picture.

Reference: INFO: ASP.NET HTTP Modules and HTTP Handlers Overview

“Modules are called before and after the handler executes. Modules enable developers to intercept, participate in, or modify each individual request. Handlers are used to process individual endpoint requests. Handlers enable the ASP.NET Framework to process individual HTTP URLs or groups of URL extensions within an application. Unlike modules, only one handler is used to process a request”.

Steps to Implement HttpHandlers

Step 1

HttpHandlers are nothing but classes which have pre-processing logic implemented. So the first thing is to create a class project and reference System.Web namespace and implement the IHttpHandler interface as shown in the below code snippet. IHttpHandler interface has two methods which needs to be implemented; one is the ProcessRequest and the other is the IsResuable. In the ProcessRequest method, we are just entering the URL into the file and displaying the same into the browser. We have manipulated the context response object to send the display to the browser.

using System;
using System.Web;
using System.IO;
namespace MyPipeLine
{
public class clsMyHandler : IHttpHandler
{
public void ProcessRequest(System.Web.HttpContext context)
{
context.Response.Write("The page request is " + context.Request.RawUrl.ToString());
StreamWriter sw = new StreamWriter(@"C:\requestLog.txt",true);
sw.WriteLine("Page requested at " + DateTime.Now.ToString() + 
			context.Request.RawUrl); sw.Close();
}
public bool IsReusable
{
get
{
return true;
}
}
}

Step 2

In step 2, we need to make an entry of HttpHandlers tag. In the tag, we need to specify which kind of extension requested will invoke our class.

<system.web>
<httpHandlers>
<add verb="*" path="*.Shiv,*.Koirala" type="MyPipeLine.clsMyHandler, MyPipeLine"/>
</httpHandlers>
</system.web>

Once done, request for page name with extension ‘Shiv’ and you should see a display as shown below. So what has happened is when the IIS sees that request is for a ‘.shiv’ page extension, it just calls the clsMyHandler class pre-processing logic.

Steps to Implement HttpModule

Step 1

As discussed previously, HttpModule is an event pre-processor. So the first thing is to implement the IHttpModule and register the necessary events which this module should subscribe. For instance, we have registered in this sample for BeginRequest and EndRequest events. In those events, we have just written an entry on to the log file.

public class clsMyModule : IHttpModule
{
public clsMyModule()
{}
public void Init(HttpApplication objApplication)
{
// Register event handler of the pipe line
objApplication.BeginRequest += new EventHandler(this.context_BeginRequest);
objApplication.EndRequest += new EventHandler(this.context_EndRequest);
}
public void Dispose()
{
}
public void context_EndRequest(object sender, EventArgs e)
{
StreamWriter sw = new StreamWriter(@"C:\requestLog.txt",true);
sw.WriteLine("End Request called at " + DateTime.Now.ToString()); sw.Close();
}
public void context_BeginRequest(object sender, EventArgs e)
{
StreamWriter sw = new StreamWriter(@"C:\requestLog.txt",true);
sw.WriteLine("Begin request called at " + DateTime.Now.ToString()); sw.Close();
}
}

Step 2

We need to enter those module entries into the HttpModule tag as shown in the below code snippet:

<httpModules>
<add name="clsMyModule" type="MyPipeLine.clsMyModule, MyPipeLine"/>
</httpModules>

The Final Output

If you run the code, you should see something like this in the RequestLog.txt. The above example is not so practical. But it will help us understand the fundamentals.

Begin request called at 11/12/2008 6:32:00 PM
End Request called at 11/12/2008 6:32:00 PM
Begin request called at 11/12/2008 6:32:03 PM
End Request called at 11/12/2008 6:32:03 PM
Begin request called at 11/12/2008 6:32:06 PM
End Request called at 11/12/2008 6:32:06 PM
Begin request called at 11/12/2008 8:36:04 PM
End Request called at 11/12/2008 8:36:04 PM
Begin request called at 11/12/2008 8:37:06 PM
End Request called at 11/12/2008 8:37:06 PM
Begin request called at 11/12/2008 8:37:09 PM
End Request called at 11/12/2008 8:37:09 PM
Begin request called at 11/12/2008 8:37:38 PM
Page requested at 11/12/2008 8:37:38 PM/WebSiteHandlerDemo/Articles.shiv
End Request called at 11/12/2008 8:37:38 PM

Reference

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

About the Author

Shivprasad koirala
Architect http://www.questpond.com
India India

I am a Microsoft MVP for ASP/ASP.NET and currently a CEO of a small
E-learning company in India. We are very much active in making training videos ,
writing books and corporate trainings. Do visit my site for 
.NET, C# , design pattern , WCF , Silverlight
, LINQ , ASP.NET , ADO.NET , Sharepoint , UML , SQL Server  training 
and Interview questions and answers


Comments and Discussions

 
GeneralMy vote of 3 [modified] PinmemberH.J25-Feb-14 1:04 
QuestionAwesome article PinmemberSuresh Dammannapeta30-Jan-14 22:50 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberAzziet11-Mar-13 2:52 
QuestionHttpHandlers are not Interceptors Pinmemberrajesh_chan28-Jan-13 17:38 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pinmembershinnapongk9-Dec-12 14:52 
QuestionWhich one is best? PinmemberVitaly Tomilov5-Oct-12 1:40 
QuestionGetting Error PinmemberBitla Phanindra28-Sep-12 2:40 
AnswerRe: Getting Error PinmemberAmol Borkar, Pune, India12-Oct-12 0:37 
GeneralRe: Getting Error PinmemberBitla Phanindra12-Oct-12 2:23 
GeneralRe: Getting Error PinmemberAmol Borkar, Pune, India15-Oct-12 4:46 
GeneralRe: Getting Error PinmemberAmol Borkar, Pune, India15-Oct-12 4:48 
GeneralRe: Getting Error PinmemberBitla Phanindra15-Oct-12 21:29 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pinmembersaanj11-Sep-12 23:15 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pinmembersumanvidiyala6-Sep-12 16:03 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberGerard Castelló Viader23-Aug-12 23:03 
Questionexcellent Pinmemberthinkindia4-Aug-12 5:43 
GeneralHat's off to you sir..! Pinmembershubhambhave3-Aug-12 3:28 
QuestionVery Nice Explanation PinmemberMember 823840818-Jun-12 20:57 
QuestionNot able to implement HttpHandler for PDF file. Pinmemberkumardeff21-May-12 22:06 
GeneralMy vote of 1 Pinmemberanurag.sri4313-Mar-12 23:57 
Questioni want to create firewall at application level Pinmemberpuspendra napit9-Feb-12 20:41 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pinmembercool-sunil30-Nov-11 20:36 
QuestionReally good explanation Pinmemberpalakshamb16-Nov-11 1:13 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pinmembermaq_rohit2-Oct-11 0:00 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberSChristmas28-Jun-11 2:36 
QuestionErrors with HttpModule practise Pinmemberkate08245-May-11 21:35 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberSandeep Ramani13-Apr-11 3:16 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pinmemberhhlovecode10-Apr-11 7:11 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pinmemberjim lahey18-Feb-11 1:45 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberSoumya123410-Nov-10 1:12 
GeneralAwesome on this one! PinmemberEric Xue (brokensnow)5-Nov-10 22:28 
GeneralExcellent PinmemberViralVasaiwala6-Oct-10 20:01 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pinmembernanjundappa19-Sep-10 18:57 
GeneralHi PinmemberShabir Ahamed5-Sep-10 20:44 
Questiongetting this working with windows authentication if the login fails ??? Pinmemberjwaldner16-Aug-10 12:00 
GeneralI am your FAN Pinmemberjunkpraveen24-Oct-09 8:31 
GeneralHttpModule with a Response.Filter and images not being displayed PinmemberMember 166015113-Sep-09 2:03 
GeneralThank you. Pinmemberyossefavr6-Sep-09 11:58 
GeneralYou are the best.. Pinmemberrilov16-Aug-09 2:51 
GeneralRe: You are the best.. PinmemberShivprasad koirala16-Aug-09 3:01 
GeneralGood PinmemberNorm .net4-Mar-09 7:53 
Generalvery good PinmemberDonsw9-Feb-09 14:14 
Generalnice1 Pinmemberklace0622-Dec-08 8:54 
GeneralNice one..Question PinmemberkaishAgra26-Nov-08 21:19 
GeneralThanks :) PinmemberDaniella24-Nov-08 8:20 

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