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Posted 7 May 2014

Web API without MVC

, 7 May 2014
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In this article, we will develop an independent API which is not coupled with a ASP.NET MVC application type.

"Web API", as the name suggests, is an API and an API should not be coupled with any specific kind of application. An API is supposed to provide services without being coupled with its consumer application. There is a common misconception that for developing Web APIs, we have to go by ASP.NET MVC application. In this article, we will develop an independent API which is not coupled with a ASP.NET MVC application type.

What is Web API?

Web API is a framework for building HTTP services. Those developed services could be consumed by broad range of clients, including browsers and mobile devices.


Web API is a feature of ASP.NET MVC 4. This included with MVC 4 because of their similarities. That doesn’t mean you always have to create ASP.NET MVC application for developing Web API. You can use Web API in any number of applications.

Developing Web API without MVC

As the philosophy of the service development is concerned, it’s all about exposing few service methods. We would not be bothered about the application type. MVC application is for a particular purpose where we have a consumer end as well. We should develop our services independent of its consumer. In this example, we will develop a Web API through a Console application.

Developing Web API in Console application

When developing Web API outside MVC, you need to refer Web API assemblies to your project. The NuGet Package Manager is the easiest way to add the Web API assemblies to a non-ASP.NET project.

Installing Web API NuGet Package

  1. From the Tools menu, select Library Package Manager.
  2. Select Manage NuGet Packages for Solution.
  3. In the Manage NuGet Packages dialog, select Online.
  4. In the search box, type "Microsoft.AspNet.WebApi.SelfHost".
  5. Select the ASP.NET Web API Self Host package and click Install.

Once installation is done, you are all set to develop your Web API outside MVC.

Start Visual Studio and select New Project from the Start page. Or, from the File menu, select New and then Project. On the Templates pane, under Visual C#, select Console Application. Enter a name for the project and click OK.

Add a file Product.cs for to create a business model class. We will expose this business object through our Web API.

Adding the "Product" Controller

Now, we need to add our Web API. Technically, the Web API method is nothing but a Web API controller class. In order to add the controller right click on the project and select Add New Item. In the Templates pane, select Installed Templates and expand the Visual C# node. Under Visual C#, select Web. Select Web API Controller Class. Enter a name for the class and click OK.

Once you added the controller, we will find the class with auto-generated code:

namespace WebAPISelfHost
    public class ProductController : ApiController
        // GET api/<controller>
        public IEnumerable<string> Get()
            return new string[] { "value1", "value2" };

        // GET api/<controller>/5
        public string Get(int id)
            return "value";

        // POST api/<controller>
        public void Post([FromBody]string value)

        // PUT api/<controller>/5
        public void Put(int id, [FromBody]string value)

        // DELETE api/<controller>/5
        public void Delete(int id)

In the above code the controller class has been derived for from the ApiController class. This the key class for Web API. If we want to expose a controller through API, we have to derive the controller from the abstract class ApiController. Also, there are four auto-generated method stubs. Those are the stub methods related to four REST verbs GET, POST,PUT and DELETE. Since the Web API is REST based, the framework provides the structure for REST based Web services.

In our example, we will develop a simple service for getting product details. So, remove the auto-generated code and implement a Web API GetProductList:

namespace WebAPISelfHost
    public class ProductsController:ApiController
        public List<Product> GetProductList()
            List<Product> productLst = new List<Product>{
                new Product{ProductID="P01",ProductName="Pen",Quantity=10,Price=12},
                new Product{ProductID="P02",ProductName="Copy",Quantity=12,Price=20},
                new Product{ProductID="P03",ProductName="Pencil",Quantity=15,Price=22},
                new Product{ProductID="P04",ProductName="Eraser",Quantity=20,Price=27}
            return productLst;

In our API, we are simply returning a list of products. Compile the code and build the project. Now, our Web API is ready. We need to host the developed Web API.

Self-Hosting Web API

You can self-host a web API in your own host process. Here, we will Self-Host our developed Web API in the console application itself. Refer the System.Web.Http.SelfHost.dll in the project. This library provides classes for the HTTP self-hosted service.

Open the file Program.cs and add the following namespaces

using System.Web.Http;
using System.Web.Http.SelfHost;

Now, add the following code for Self-Hosting:

static void Main(string[] args)
            var config = new HttpSelfHostConfiguration("http://localhost:8080");
                "API Default", "api/{controller}/{id}",
                new { id = RouteParameter.Optional });

            using (HttpSelfHostServer server = new HttpSelfHostServer(config))
                Console.WriteLine("Press Enter to quit.");

In the above code, we have created a instance of HttpSelfHostConfiguration. The overloaded constructor of the class expects a Uri to listen to a particular HTTP address. In the MapHttpRoute method we are defining the routing pattern of our API.

Finally, we are using the configuration in the HttpSelfHostServer. Our Web API is hosted on the basis of our defined configuration.

Compile and run the project. Now our Web API is up and ready to serve.

Note: This application listens to http://localhost:8080/. By default, listening at a particular HTTP address requires administrator privileges. When you run the application, therefore, you might get an error: "HTTP could not register URL http://+:8080/".To avoid this error, run Visual Studio with elevated administrator permissions.

Consuming the Web API

Now it’s time to consume the Web API. Let's write a simple console application that calls the web API. Add a new console application project to the solution.

As our API is returning a list of "product" types, we need to add the stub product class for identifying the returned type in our client code. Add the file Product.cs in the Client application.

Open the file Program.cs file. Add the following namespace:

using System.Net;
using System.Net.Http;
using System.Runtime.Serialization.Json;
using System.Net.Http.Formatting;
using System.Net.Http.Headers;
using EventStore.Serialization;

Create an instance of a HttpClient class and set the base address with the listener URI of the Web API.

HttpClient client = new HttpClient ();
             client.BaseAddress = new Uri ("http://localhost:8080/");

Add the accept header. Here we are using a feature of HTTP as well as Web API called "Content Negotiation". According to this feature a Client can negotiate with the server regarding the format of the data it returned. Here, we negotiating with the server in JSON format.

// Add an Accept header for JSON format.
    new MediaTypeWithQualityHeaderValue("application/json"));

Use the HttpClient.GetAsync method to send a GET request to the Web API. Provide the routing pattern.

// List all products.
HttpResponseMessage response = client.GetAsync ("api/products").Result;

Use the ReadAsAsync method to serialize the response. ReadAsAsync method returns a Task that will yield an object of the specified type.

The GetAsync and ReadAsAsync methods are both asynchronous. They return Task objects that represent the asynchronous operation. Getting the Result property blocks the thread until the operation completes.

if (response.IsSuccessStatusCode)
     // Parse the response body. Blocking!
     var products = response.Content.ReadAsAsync<IEnumerable<Product>>().Result;

Finally, print the data retrieved from the Web API:

    foreach (var p in products)
        Console.WriteLine("{0}\t{1};\t{2}", p.ProductID, p.ProductName, p.Quantity);
    Console.WriteLine("{0} ({1})", (int)response.StatusCode, response.ReasonPhrase);

Build and run the application (Server application should be up).

You should get the following output:



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


About the Author

Kausik J. Nag
India India
No Biography provided

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Comments and Discussions

Question404 (Not Found) Pin
crisma_victoria26-Jan-15 3:27
membercrisma_victoria26-Jan-15 3:27 
AnswerRe: 404 (Not Found) Pin
pankajtiwary15-Feb-17 18:36
memberpankajtiwary15-Feb-17 18:36 
QuestionWhat version(s) of Visual Studio are you working with? Pin
RodAtHome8-Aug-14 7:34
memberRodAtHome8-Aug-14 7:34 
AnswerRe: What version(s) of Visual Studio are you working with? Pin
Kausik J. Nag8-Aug-14 7:59
memberKausik J. Nag8-Aug-14 7:59 
GeneralRe: What version(s) of Visual Studio are you working with? Pin
RodAtHome9-Aug-14 4:22
memberRodAtHome9-Aug-14 4:22 
GeneralRe: What version(s) of Visual Studio are you working with? Pin
Dan Stevens19-Mar-15 1:46
memberDan Stevens19-Mar-15 1:46 
Questionapply this method to page and c# form application Pin
Member 1037574016-Jul-14 3:33
memberMember 1037574016-Jul-14 3:33 
QuestionNice Articles....... Pin
Rajeev Kr. Singh19-Jun-14 23:12
professionalRajeev Kr. Singh19-Jun-14 23:12 

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