WCF Web API – HTTP content classes

This is the seventh post on a series about the new Preview 4 of WCF Web API. The previous posts were:

This post presents the HTTP content class hierarchy.

The HTTP Message Classes post introduced the HttpRequestMessage and HttpResponseMessage classes, which represent HTTP requests and responses. Both this classes have a Content property, of type HttpContent, that represents the HTTP message body.

The HttpContent abstract class is just the root of a class hierarchy with multiple content classes, as presented in the following class diagram.


I’ve divided this class diagram into several regions, in order to highlight the different design aspects:

  • The HttpContent is the hierarchy root, and is referenced by both the HttpRequestMessage and HttpResponseMessage  classes.
  • There are several concrete HttpContent-derived classes for handling basic content types.
    • The StreamContent, ByteArrayContent and StringContent classes are self-explanatory.
    • The FormUrlEncoded is used to create application/x-www-form-urlencoded type content, based on a Iterable<KeyValuePair<string,string>> containing (name,value) pairs.
  • The ObjectContent class represents object-based content, i. e.
    • content produced by the serialization/formatting of an object;
    • content that is to be read as an object, using deserialization/unformatting.
  • The ObjectContent<T> generic class provides a more typed version of ObjectContent: instead of dealing with plain object, this classes provides methods to obtain a T from the content or to construct a content based on a T.
  • This ObjectContent<T> is used by both the new HttpRequestMessage<T> and HttpResponseMessage<T> classes. This two classes represent HTTP request and responses, similarly to the non-generic HttpResponseMessage and HttpRequestMessage classes, with one big difference: the content is strongly-typed – a T instance.
  • The conversion between byte streams and object instances is the responsibility of media-type formatters, represented by the MediaTypeFormatter abstract base class. This class contains two abstract methods, OnReadFromStream and OnWriteToStream, implemented by concrete classes such as XmlMediaTypeFormatter or JsonMediaTypeFormatter.

Concluding notes

  • This post was based on the observation of the Preview 4 source code, available at http://www.codeplex.com. Since this is just a preview, this model is to be interpreted as “work in progress”.
  • On future post, I will show how both the content classes and the generic request and response classes can be used as operation parameters.

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