What is WCF?

WCF stands for Windows Communication Foundation. It is used to create a distributed and interoperable Applications. WCF is an effective platform for developing service-oriented applications. It allows developers to create secure, reliable, and high profile development solutions which can be integrated across platforms and interoperate with existing investments.

What is Web API?

ASP.NET Web API is a framework which allows you to build HTTP services for browsers and mobile devices. It is an ideal platform for developing RESTful applications on the ASP .NET Framework.

The ASP.NET Web API is an extensible framework for building HTTP based services that can be accessed in different applications on different platforms such a web, windows, mobile devices, etc.


  • WCF offers request-reply, one-way, or duplex while Web API is by default request-reply only.
  • WCF is used for developing SOAP-based services whereas Web API is used for both SOAP-based and RESTful services.
  • WCF does not offer any support for MVC features whereas Web API supports MVC features.
  • WCF supports HTTP, UDP, and custom transport protocol whereas Web API supports only HTTP protocol.
  • WCF offers Text, MTOM, and Binary Encoding support whereas Web API supports the UTF-8 encoding format.
  • WCF supports message queues, message security, duplex communication, transaction whereas Web API doesn’t support.
  • WCF stands for Windows Communication Foundation whereas API stands for Application Program Interface.

Here, are pros/benefits of using WCF:

  • WCF is an ideal option if you are planning to use .NET Framework 3.5.
  • WCF support multiple protocols such as HTTP, TCP, Named pipe.
  • WCF service is useful if you want to build service with standards like Transactions Messaging security and Reliable Message Security.
  • You can use Request-Reply, One Way, and Duplex message exchange patterns with WCF.

Here, are pros/benefits of using web API:

  • Web API provides supports for convention-based CRUD Actions since it works with HTTP verbs ( GET, PUT, POST, and DELETE)
  • It is easy to define, expose, and consume in a REST-ful way.
  • ASP.Net Web API allows you to showcase your data and services to various devices.
  • Web API is open source, so it is an ideal option for creating RESTful services over the .NET platform.
  • Allows you scalable, decoupled development of a Web Service which can be shared and used by other developers to access web services.
  • It is also helpful to build simple, non-SOAP-based HTTP Services.

Characteristics of WCF

  • Highly configurable transports
  • Better options for serialization
  • Well-integrated with IIS
  • Easy for self-hosting
  • Very rich metadata
  • Complex model for publication
  • Rich data contracts

Characteristics of Web API

  • Tightly coupled to HTTP
  • Easy to test
  • Offers support for content negotiation
  • Allows open-ended formatting
  • No reliance on a platform
  • Solid resource-orientation
  • Level 2 experience with nascent hypermedia support

WCF Vs Web Service

ParameterWCFWeb API
Message Exchange PatternRequest reply, one-way, or duplex.By default request-reply only. However, additional message pattern can be supported with web sockets integration.
HostingIIS hosting, Self-hosting & works activation services.Self-hosting & IIS hosting.
Open SourceIt is not open source software.It is shipped with.Net framework.It is also available as an independent download.
Support for MVC featuresWCF does not provide any support for MVC features like controllers, routing, filter, auction results, etc.ASP.NET Web API supports MVC features like routing, controllers, results, filter, action, etc.
Encoding supportText, MTOM, and Binary.Default support for UTF-8 encoding format.
Support forSupport for HTTP, UDP, and custom transport protocol.Supports only HTTP protocol
Use of modelUser attributed based programming model.Maps HTTP verbs to methods
ConfigurationUses web.config and attributes to configure a HttpConfiguration class but not on the web.config Service.Web API can be configured using web.config service.
RESTful servicesIt offers supports for RESTFUL service but with limitations.Ideal for building RESTFUL services.

The deciding factor for WCF vs. Web API

Following is a quick checklist to help to determine whether to use WCF or Web API

ScenarioWCF 4.5ASP.NET Web API
Requires support for scenarios like Message queues, end to end message security, duplex communication, distributed transactions, etc.SelectDo NOT Select

When you already have existing working WCF services and Wants to add HTTP support additionally.SelectDo NOT Select

One code base to provide support both SOAP and RESTful endpoints.SelectDo NOT Select

Wants to create a resource-oriented service over HTTP.Do NOT SelectSelect

Your project is an MVC application and wants some functionality over HTTP.Do NOT SelectSelect

You want to build only an HTTP / RESTful servicesDo NOT SelectSelect



Last modified: November 20, 2020



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