Learn how to improve your ASP.NET Core controllers with these principles (2022)

Using ASP.NET for creating APIs, and also consuming public endpoints for quite some time now, I have seen both good and bad examples. Sometimes, you can even tell from the responses you’ll get from an endpoint, that the underlying controller design is rubbish. But what does a healthy controller in ASP.NET Core look like? Google is actually not too generous with answers to this question. That’s why I’ve tried to compile a few guiding principles that reflect my personal opinion on the answer to that question. Many of them are also what you might consider best practices in the industry.


Introduction

Typically, ASP.NET controllers provide endpoints for an API that transports JSON data via HTTP. Many people equate this behavior with that of a REST API, but those are actually not the same. REST itself does not make any assumptions about the data structure or the transport technology in its specification. You might want to check out Wikipedia for that matter, or have a go at a decent talk of Spencer Schneidenbach at NDC.


Nonetheless, for the sake of simplicity, let’s assume that we are indeed talking about JSON via HTTP, implemented in ASP.NET Core.


Healthy API

Since we were talking about the API, let me share a few thoughts on how a well-defined API might look like. We all know the famous class Employee that is used through all ASP.NET tutorials out there. Here is what a bad example might look like:


[GET] /employee/getEmployees[GET] /employee/getSingleEmployee/42

And right away, here is what I would want it to look like:


[GET] /v1/employees/[GET] /v1/employees/42

So, there are a few things worth extracting from this. The first one is concerned with the versioning of APIs.


Version your API already in the URL, i.e., make the version information obvious.


Second, use plural nouns for your endpoints, and don’t get creative on the method names.


User plural nouns for endpoint names, such as /employees/. Keep it simple.

(Video) ASP.NET Core Web API Features You Need to Know In 10 Minutes or Less


And third, let me share my assumptions about HTTP request methods when I see them:


  • [GET] Simply gets data. Don’t do manipulation/permutation of data within these requests.
  • [POST] Creates a new entry.
  • [PUT] Updates an entry. I will have to provide all the required properties. If not, they are set to null or its equivalent.
  • [PATCH] Updates an entry. I provide only the properties I want to update.
  • [DELETE] Deletes an entry.

Return values (status codes)

There are plenty of HTTP status codes and there sure as hell is a reason ASP.NET does not provide a shortcut method for every one of them.


Focus on a small set of well-defined HTTP status codes. Don’t reinvent the wheel.


Let’s have a look at common examples and what they usually mean to developers:


  • [200 OK] Everything is fine. GET request was good and here are your results.
  • [201 OK] Everything is fine. POST request was good.
  • [400 BR] Your input data was invalid, because (!) …
  • [404 NF] Could not find the resource.
  • [401 UA] I don’t know you.
  • [403 FB] I know you, but you don’t deserve to see this.
  • [500 IE] Something really bad happened.

Those are the ones you’d usually see. If you decide to use a few more, feel free, but please document them somewhere.


So, how do you return these? First of all, make sure, that you’re controllers return ActionResult, which is a wrapper for both status codes and your data.


[HttpGet]public async Task<ActionResult> Get(){ var employees = await this.employeeService.GetEmployeesAsync(); return Ok(employees);}[HttpPost]public async Task<ActionResult> Post([FromBody] EmployeeDto employee){ var validationResults = this.validator.Validate(employee).ToList(); if (validationResults.Any()) { var validationResponse = new ApiErrorValidationResponse(HttpStatusCode.BadRequest, validationResults); return BadRequest(validationResponse); } await this.employeeService.AddEmployeeAsync(employee); return Ok();}

If your controller derives from ControllerBase there are a couple of shorthand functions to return proper responses, and you should use them.


Oh, and while we’re at it: Please, do stuff asynchronously, remember?


The controller does too much

So now somebody is consuming our API, we have a look at the controllers and we see it doing one or many of the following things: Validation, database access, applying business logic, error and exception handling, mapping, and returning values. Not a healthy thing to do in a controller.

(Video) Working with controllers and action methods [4 of 18] | Web APIs for Beginners


Controllers are delegates. They tell other classes to do something with an information, and return their results to the consumer.


That being said, you should see to it, that your controllers really just dispatch work to other services. For example, input data validation can be done using framework methods, data retrieval should be done in a service using a repository, and mapping could be done in the exact same service already. Exception handling should definitely not be dealt with in a controller, but more on that later. Also, business logic does not belong in a controller either. So please keep your controllers clean of all that.


Validation

As far as validation goes, there are different options to reach similar outcomes.


  1. Use built-in framework validation:
using Microsoft.AspNetCore.Mvc.ModelBinding.Validation;public class EmployeeDto{ [Required] public string FirstName { get; set; } [Required] public string LastName { get; set; }}

This will work for very simple problems. DTOs will be automatically validated before they even hit your controller if it has the attribute [ApiController].


  1. Use extended framework validation:
public class EmployeeDto : IValidatableObject{ public string FirstName { get; set; } public string LastName { get; set; } public IEnumerable<ValidationResult> Validate(ValidationContext validationContext) { if (LastName.Contains("voldemort", StringComparison.OrdinalIgnoreCase)) { yield return new ValidationResult("You may not speak his name."); } }}

You can use this option for slightly more complex scenarios. But be aware that if you are using this extensively, your DTO will eventually know too much, i.e., it actually should not know how to validate itself. In order to separate these concerns, you might want to use a separate validator class.


  1. Use a separate validator class:
public class EmployeeValidator : IValidate<EmployeeDto>{ public IEnumerable<ValidationResult> Validate(EmployeeDto model) { if (model.FirstName.IsValid( o => !string.IsNullOrEmpty(o), o => !o.Contains('%'))) { yield return new ValidationResult($"{nameof(model.FirstName)} is invalid."); } }}public static class Extensions{ public static bool IsValid<T>(this T @this, params Func<T, bool>[] validationFuncs) { return validationFuncs.All(o => o(@this)); }}

Here, I have created a separate class and a helpful extension to make the code more readable. The instance of this class can be passed into your controller via dependency injection to validate your DTOs before processing them:


[HttpPost]public async Task<ActionResult> Post([FromBody] EmployeeDto employee){ var validationResults = this.validator.Validate(employee).ToList(); if (validationResults.Any()) { var validationResponse = new ApiErrorValidationResponse(HttpStatusCode.BadRequest, validationResults); return BadRequest(validationResponse); } await this.employeeService.AddEmployeeAsync(employee); return Ok();}

If you don’t want to reinvent the wheel here, you might want to have a look at the awesome NuGet package FluentValidation.


Error reporting

There is something about error reporting that makes it difficult for people to develop and get right. I tend to think about it like the frontend of exceptions. And (many) developers don’t like frontend, so they keep doing error reporting inherently wrong. But let’s first dive into another bad example:


[HttpPost]public async Task<ActionResult> Post([FromBody] EmployeeDto employee){ ... try { await employeeService.AddEmployeeAsync(employee); return Ok(); } catch (InvalidOperationException e) { //do this } catch (OperationCanceledException e) { // do something different. }}

This is classic control flow via exceptions, and there are a bunch of good articles out there that will explain to you why this is generally a bad idea if you did not know. Some might argue here, that you can get rid of this code in your controller by using a middleware approach that will take over the exception handling, but that will only move bad design somewhere else.

(Video) ASP.NET 6 BACKGROUND WORKER SERVICES - What you need to know and how to setup one.


Also, throwing exceptions and catching them somewhere else is tremendously expensive in terms of performance. Nick Chapsas has a good video if you’re interested in how expensive that is.


One way of dealing with this is using dedicated result objects that represent the outcome of a specific operation, e.g., of a service method. You can either use libraries for this task, or simply create a set of classes that your controllers can return based on which you can redirect your program’s flow.


Make it easy for people to understand what is wrong.


So now that you’ve determined that something went wrong, you should your consumers let know about it, maybe even how to fix the issues. Good APIs make it easy for people to get things right. You could for example use a specific DTO for that:


public sealed class ApiResponseBase{ public string? Documentation { get; } public string? Message { get; } public HttpStatusCode StatusCode { get; } public ApiResponseBase(HttpStatusCode statusCode, string message? = null, string? documentation = null) {...}}

See? That is very developer-friendly.


Data encapsulation

When you’re using the full feature set of Entity Framework and even letting the scaffolding tools generate controllers for you, your code will end up publicly shipping your entity model via your API. But a) you don’t want to make the internals of your resource structure visible to the world, and b) you don’t want to make people provide properties they are not interested in. Consequently, you are likely to need separate entity models for each operation.


Separate your API model from your entity model.


Let’s consider our famous employee. Internally, the entity class might look something like this:


public class Employee { public int Id { get; set; } public string FirstName { get; set; } public string LastName { get; set; } public string VerySensitiveInformation { get; set; }}

See the VerySensitiveInformation? Might be a social security number or whatever private Information you’ll have to keep for your employees. In any case, you should not expose this information when delivering these entities via your API. You’ll need a DTO for that:

(Video) How Controller behaviour changed in .NET 7


public class EmployeeResponse { public int Id { get; set; } public string FirstName { get; set; } public string LastName { get; set; }}

Now, that’s better. The ID of the entity will be useful to request a single employee from your controller. But what if somebody wants to add an employee through your API? Another DTO…


public class EmployeeDto { public string FirstName { get; set; } public string LastName { get; set; }}

In this way, you’ll only have to provide the really required properties when adding entities via the API. Our controller’s signature will then look something like this:


[HttpGet]public Task<ActionResult<IEnumerable<EmployeeResponse>>> Get()[HttpGet][Route("{id:int}")]public Task<ActionResult<EmployeeResponse>> Get(int id)[HttpPost]public Task<ActionResult> Post([FromBody] EmployeeDto employee)

Some might say “That’s a lot of boilerplate code. And all that mapping code that is necessary for this to work!”. And yes, that’s what data encapsulation and protection are all about. And concerning the mapping: Be quiet and let Automapper or Mapster do the work for you.


So, that is my (probably not comprehensive) list of improvements you could make to your controllers. If you follow these guidelines, I suspect your API is user-friendly and easy to maintain as well. Let me know what you think – maybe you’ll have valuable additions to my collection.

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FAQs

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  7. Pool HTTP connections with HttpClientFactory.
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What are controllers in ASP.NET Core? ›

The controller takes the result of the model's processing (if any) and returns either the proper view and its associated view data or the result of the API call. Learn more at Overview of ASP.NET Core MVC and Get started with ASP.NET Core MVC and Visual Studio. The controller is a UI-level abstraction.

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  6. Combine Resources.
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How can I improve my Web API routing? ›

Routing inside Web API

Just as you would route a controller inside ASP.NET MVC you can route API controllers in Web API applications, by adding custom routes to the route table. However instead of using the MapRoute method you should use the MapHttpRoute method.

Why do we use Controllers? ›

A controller is responsible for controlling the way that a user interacts with an MVC application. A controller contains the flow control logic for an ASP.NET MVC application. A controller determines what response to send back to a user when a user makes a browser request.

What are the controller action methods? ›

Instead, you call one of the following methods of the Controller base class:
  • View - Returns a ViewResult action result.
  • Redirect - Returns a RedirectResult action result.
  • RedirectToAction - Returns a RedirectToRouteResult action result.
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How do I add a controller in net core? ›

Select the EXPLORER icon and then control-click (right-click) Controllers > New File and name the new file HelloWorldController. cs . In Solution Explorer, right-click Controllers > Add > New File. Select ASP.NET Core and Controller Class.

What is the best way to learn .NET Core? ›

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How can I master my ASP.NET Core? ›

Description
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  3. Build applications using ASP NET Core 3.1 using Razor Pages.
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  5. Integrate Entity Framework along with code first migrations.

How do I master a .NET Core? ›

NET Core development tasks, so all except the debugging tutorial can be used with any code editor.
  1. Create a console app.
  2. Debug an app.
  3. Publish an app.
  4. Create a class library.
  5. Unit test a class library.
  6. Install and use a package.
  7. Create and publish a package.
  8. Create an F# console app.
4 Oct 2022

What is difference between .NET Core and ASP.NET Core? ›

NET Core is a runtime. It can execute applications that are built for it. ASP.NET Core is a collection of libraries that form a Framework for building web applications. ASP.NET Core libraries can be used on both .

Is .NET Core in demand? ›

The demand for dot net development companies is overgrowing, and every industrial sector is inclined towards using it. Microsoft developed the . Net Framework, and it is an ideal platform for all technology companies. Dot Net development also helps in MVC structure and web API.

What is difference between .NET and .NET Core? ›

NET Framework is a platform for . NET applications on Windows whereas, NET Core is the latest version of the . NET Framework which is a cross-platform and open-source framework optimized for modern app needs and developer workflows.

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  6. Relieve the pressure on the garbage collector. ...
  7. Don't use empty destructors.
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Caching is one of the best ways to improve API performance. If you have requests that frequently produce the same response, a cached version of the response avoids excessive database queries. The easiest way to cache responses is to periodically expire it, or force it to expire when certain data updates happen.

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In ASP.NET Web API, a controller is a class that handles HTTP requests. The public methods of the controller are called action methods or simply actions. When the Web API framework receives a request, it routes the request to an action. To determine which action to invoke, the framework uses a routing table.

Can we have multiple get methods in controller? ›

Usually a Web API controller has maximum of five actions - Get(), Get(id), Post(), Put(), and Delete(). However, if required you can have additional actions in the Web API controller.

What is API and how many types of API? ›

APIs are broadly accepted and used in web applications. There are four principal types of API commonly used in web-based applications: public, partner, private and composite. In this context, the API "type" indicates the intended scope of use.

How many types of controllers are there? ›

There are two main types of controllers: continuous controllers, and discontinuous controllers.
...
Now in the continuous controller theory, there are three basic modes on which the whole control action takes place, which are:
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What are the roles of a controller in asp net? ›

At the high level, the Controller orchestrates between the Model and the View, and sends the output back to the user. This is also the place where authentication is usually done through action filters.

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@Controller annotation indicates that the class is a “controller” like a web controller. @RestController annotation indicates that class is a controller where @RequestMapping methods assume @ResponseBody semantics by default. In @Controller, we need to use @ResponseBody on every handler method.

How do you create a controller method? ›

Controllers process incoming requests using action methods.
...
Create a simple controller as in the following code snippet:
  1. public class HomeController : Controller.
  2. {
  3. public ActionResult SayHello()
  4. {
  5. ViewData["SayHello"] = "Hello";
  6. return View();
  7. }
  8. public string SayHi()
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How do you secure a controller? ›

To mark a controller to be accessed only by a logged in user, we can use Authorize attribute. Above controller action method will only be accessible to those user who are logged in to the application.

What is the default action for a controller? ›

By default, Controller is the Home Controller and default Action Method is the “Index” action method.

What is API controller C#? ›

Web API Controller is similar to ASP.NET MVC controller. It handles incoming HTTP requests and send response back to the caller. Web API controller is a class which can be created under the Controllers folder or any other folder under your project's root folder.

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Select Add, then select Controller. In the Add Scaffold dialog, select "Web API 2 Controller with actions, using Entity Framework". Click Add.
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Web APIs return data in JSON, XML, or other formats. System.
...
Differences between Web API and MVC.
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7 more rows
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As like any other Web Technology, you should start with HTML, CSS and Javascript. For Asp.Net development you can use either C#(. Net) or VB(. Net) as a programming language.

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If you already know one of the languages compatible with . NET—such as C#, F#, or Visual Basic—it will take you two to three months to learn to use this platform professionally. If you don't know any of these languages, you will need to learn one first. C# is a great language to learn for web development.

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Web Apps and Services: You can build modren and scalable web apps and services using HTML, CSS and Javascript. Deploy Anywhere: You can deploy asp.net core apps to any platform (Windows, MacOS, Linux) cloud or containers.

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Middleware is software that's assembled into an app pipeline to handle requests and responses. Each component: Chooses whether to pass the request to the next component in the pipeline. Can perform work before and after the next component in the pipeline.

How do I code in .NET Core? ›

Add a class library and add it to the solution. Add a test project and run our tests. Add a Console program and use our library. Improve our IDE with vscode-solution-explorer extension.
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We will do the following:
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  2. Reference our NuGet package in our library code.
  3. Build our code.

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C# (pronounced “see-sharp”) is the actual coding language that we write inside of the . NET framework. C# is an object-oriented programming language, meaning it can increase productivity in the development process.

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The future in 2022 of . NET is very strong. . NET is a modern, fast, flexible, friendly and open-source complete full-stack framework suitable for all types of scalable software apps. The new features and yearly updates add features that improve the performance which reduces the cost and time in creation.

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NET Core is the latest general purpose development platform maintained by Microsoft. It works across different platforms and has been redesigned in a way that makes . NET fast, flexible and modern. . NET Core happens to be one of the major contributions by Microsoft.

Which is better MVC or core? ›

ASP.NET Core can be used on Windows, Mac, or Linux, whereas ASP.NET MVC can only be used for applications on Windows. On top of that, in terms of popularity and preference, ASP.NET Core is mainly the winner in both these cases.

What is the advantages of using ASP.NET Core? ›

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ASP.NET Core is a cross-platform, high-performance, open-source framework for building modern, cloud-enabled, Internet-connected apps. With ASP.NET Core, you can: Build web apps and services, Internet of Things (IoT) apps, and mobile backends. Use your favorite development tools on Windows, macOS, and Linux.

Is .NET Core a good career? ›

NET good for a career? . NET, being one of the favorite frameworks for developers, offers several opportunities. With its usage in enterprise-level development, a job in a high-tech company is highly likely.

Is .NET good for career in 2022? ›

The demand for . Net developers is increasing worldwide because it is one of the most popular programming languages and has a lot of uses. In the future, the need for . Net developers will also increase because more businesses will use this technology in their products and services.

What is the future of .NET Core? ›

NET Core 7.0 and 8.0 versions are scheduled to be released in the November of 2022 and 2023 respectively. Meanwhile, the older system continues to receive smaller updates on a need basis. This has assisted the . net development services to stay on top of their game.

Why ASP.NET Core is faster? ›

NET Core is faster for working with more modern libraries and programming languages. It is more lightweight and modular than . NET Framework, and you can use multiple versions of . NET in the same project.

Should I use .NET Core or framework? ›

A cross-platform and open-source framework, . NET Core is best when developing applications on any platform. . NET Core is used for cloud applications or refactoring large enterprise applications into microservices. You should use .

What is the difference between SDK and runtime in .NET Core? ›

The SDK is all of the stuff that is needed/makes developing a . NET Core application easier, such as the CLI and a compiler. The runtime is the "virtual machine" that hosts/runs the application and abstracts all the interaction with the base operating system.

Why .NET 6 is faster? ›

Improved performance

The FileStream class has been re-written to improve async file I/O performance. The implementation on Windows no longer uses blocking APIs, which makes it several times faster. The Just in Time (JIT) compiler has been updated. There have been improvements in the garbage collector as well.

Is .NET core faster than Java? ›

It's an open-source and free software framework for Linux, Windows, and macOS operating systems. Java is an object-oriented, class-based, higher-level programming language designed to have a few implementation dependencies. . NET has components that can be used again, which speed up the process.

How much faster is .NET 6? ›

Without making any changes whatsoever to our code, our benchmarks improved by roughly 20% simply by running the code on . NET 6.0 instead of . NET Core 3.1. We've not had to release a new version—the existing version published on NuGet (which targets netstandard2.

Is Blazor fast? ›

Blazor is very fast in terms of build and debugging.

What is replacing .NET Core? ›

Net 5 that is Opensource and Cross-platform, which will replace . Net Framework, . Net Core and Xamarin with a single unified platform called . Net 5 Framework. Source: Microsoft.

Is .NET Core going away? ›

The long-term-support (LTS) version 3.1 of Microsoft . NET Core Framework is slated to go out of support on December 13th, 2022. Microsoft recommends upgrading .

What is the latest .NET Core? ›

Download .NET
VersionLatest releaseLatest release date
.NET Core 2.22.2.8November 19, 2019
.NET Core 2.12.1.30August 19, 2021
.NET Core 2.02.0.9July 10, 2018
.NET Core 1.11.1.13May 14, 2019
3 more rows

Is ASP NET core Worth Learning 2022? ›

NET 6, ASP.NET is quite relevant in 2022. By leveraging this unified platform, enterprises can invest in a host of digital technologies such as cloud-based app development, mobile app development, IoT-enabled application development, dynamic web development and many more.

Is .NET worth learning 2022? ›

Not necessarily. . NET is and has been cross platform for almost a decade now. You can develop and deploy on any platform including Mac/Linux. I have heard microsoft has c# as their primary backend language.

Why C# is faster than Java? ›

However, according to benchmarks around the web, C# tends to perform better overall. Its response time is shorter, besides taking up less CPU load. To note fairly, when coupled together with Just-In-Time compilers, Java provides high performance too.

Does .NET 6 replace .NET Core? ›

NET 6 is an open-source and cross-platform framework, meaning that it automatically replaces . NET Core and . NET Framework with a single, more powerful, unified platform.

Is .NET Core faster than node JS? ›

NET Core has an easier time working with CPU-intensive tasks and rendering static pages since the in-built IIS server kernel caching makes this process very straightforward. Therefore, . NET core vs node. js performance offers different advantages for various projects.

Is .NET 6 same as .NET Core? ›

NET 6, though, is ASP.NET Core 6, a major upgrade of Microsoft's open source framework for building modern web applications. ASP.NET Core 6 is built on top of the . NET Core runtime and allows you to build and run applications on Windows, Linux, and macOS. ASP.NET Core 6 combines the features of Web API and MVC.

Should I learn Blazor 2022? ›

The framework enables developers to build interactive and reusable web UI in existing web technologies like C# or HTML. When it comes to grammar and syntax, the framework allows developers to use the ones of Razor and C#. Even though Blazor has accumulated only 9k+ starts on GitHub, it's still worth considering.

Can Blazor compete with react? ›

The good thing about Blazor when comparing it with React is that it leverages the latest web standards. Further, Blazor doesn't require add-ons or extra plugins for either the Blazor server-side deployment or client-side with WebAssembly.

Will Blazor replace JavaScript? ›

So Blazor can replace an app made with react/Vue, and instead of writing Javascript /typescript you will be writing C#. Or both. Visual studio will ask you if you want to add typescript types when creating a new project.

Videos

1. Learn ASP.NET Core in 5 MINUTES (2020) | How ASP.NET Core platform works |Middleware Pipeline
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2. Another JavaScript Framework | Ryan Carniato | The Secret Sauce
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3. Learn ASP.NET Core MVC (.NET 6) - Full Course
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4. Introduction to ASP.NET MVC in C#: Basics, Advanced Topics, Tips, Tricks, Best Practices, and More
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Job: Customer Engineer

Hobby: Cryptography, Writing, Dowsing, Stand-up comedy, Calligraphy, Web surfing, Ghost hunting

Introduction: My name is Lidia Grady, I am a thankful, fine, glamorous, lucky, lively, pleasant, shiny person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.