What is the ASP.NET Web API?

Instructor: Martin Gibbs

Martin has 16 years experience in Human Resources Information Systems and has a PhD in Information Technology Management. He is an adjunct professor of computer science and computer programming.

Web sites are great, but if we can't deliver them to the world, they are no good. We need to reach tablets, mobile phones, and traditional web browsers. The ASP.NET API is a tool to help us to that goal.


There are lots of acronyms here! In order to understand the ASP.NET API, we'll need to first break down the terms.


ASP.NET is a web development model. It's a tool to build web applications with less code. You can build applications in the .NET framework. Wait, what's .NET?!


.NET is a Microsoft solution to provide businesses and individuals the opportunity to build web services (web applications). It's also a programming model (like ColdFusion) that lets programmers quickly build applications; .NET provides a huge library of tools, functions, and solutions.

Consider ASP.NET another component of the .NET family. As such, you have access to all classes and functions that come with .NET.

We're almost there! Let's add on the API and have some fun.


API stands for Application Program Interface. In today's world of web applications, API equates to online services. We access APIs all the time when we surf the web and shop online; the APIs are part of the engine that helps retrieve data from Amazon, iTunes, etc.

The ASP.NET web API lets you build HTTP services that can be deployed on browsers and mobile devices.

In the old days, web pages were built and were pretty static. HTTP was just there to serve the page. Times have changed and HTTP is a lot more flexible, which is how we can deliver this model to end users:


Putting It Together

People no longer want to read a page full of plain text. They want apps, games, and stock screeners. Data presented on the web (or on their phone) needs to be consumable - in other words, useful and actionable. ASP.NET API is a tool to provide this type of service.

But what is it, really? We've been defining terms but the idea might still be a little murky.

Warning: The following statement contains graphic use of acronyms.

The ASP.NET API works to provide applications to browsers and mobile devices using HTTP services.

One more time - with the ASP.NET API, you can deliver applications using the HTTP protocol. These services can then be accessed by a wide array of browsers. It's also an entirely new platform, not just a bolt-on. It provides a very usable HTTP platform.

The days of simple web pages are over. The API allows us to serve up DATA as well as plain text and HTML markup. This includes images or files. It is also extensible, so you can add new input or output types without issues. It allows support for advanced HTTP features. You can even host it in on-Web applications.

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