Difference between ASP.NET MVC and ASP.NET Web API

Difference between ASP.NET MVC and ASP.NET Web API

29 Mar 2024
4 min read

Difference between ASP.NET MVC and ASP.NET Web API: An Overview

While developing your web application using MVC, many developers get confused about when to use Web API, since the MVC framework can also return JSON data using JsonResult and handle simple AJAX requests. Understanding this distinction is essential, especially in ASP.NET Core training. In the previous article, I have explained the Difference between WCF and Web API and WCF REST and Web Service and when to use Web API over other services. In this Web API Tutorial, you will learn when to use Web API with MVC.


The Model View Controller (MVC) architecture separates an application into three parts: Model, View, and Controller. ASP.NET provides numerous choices for developing Web applications using ASP.NET Web forms. The MVC framework combines ASP.NET capabilities like master pages and membership-based authentication. MVC is included in the "System.Web.MVC" assembly.

Model View Controller

Components of MVC

The MVC includes the following components:

  • Models: Models are the objects that are utilized to get and save model state in a database. Let's look at an example. An "item" object retrieves data from the database, conducts an operation, and then stores the changed data back in the database. If an application merely reads the dataset and sends it to the view, it lacks a corresponding class and physical layer model.
  • View: View components display the User Interface (UI) of applications generated by the data model. For example, the Items table view displays a drop-down list and textboxes based on the current state of the "item" object.
  • Controllers: Controllers are also known as components in MVC. These components handle user interaction and select a view to display the UI. The controller's primary function is to manage query string values and send them to the models.


The ASP.NET Web API supports displaying data in a variety of forms, including XML and JSON. It is a framework that makes it simple to respond to client requests by utilizing HTTP services. The response is determined by the client's requests. The web API creates HTTP services and manages requests via HTTP protocols. The Web API is open source and can be hosted within an application or on IIS. A GET, POST, DELETE, or PUT request can be made. We can define the Web API as:

  • An HTTP service.
  • Is intended to reach a wide spectrum of clients.
  • The HTTP application is used.

Difference between MVC and Web API

There are numerous distinctions between MVC and Web API, including:

  • We can use MVC to create a Web application that responds as both data and views, while the Web API is used to create HTTP services that only respond as data.
  • The Web API request traces with the actions based on the HTTP services, but the MVC request traces with the action name.
  • Based on the accepted header of the request, the Web API returns data in various formats such as JSON, XML, and others. However, the MVC uses JSONResult to return data in JSON format.
  • The Web API allows for content negotiation and self-hosting. The MVC does not support any of these.
  • The Web API supports MVC elements like as routing and model binding, although these are distinct and described in the "System.Web.Http" assembly. Furthermore, the MVC functionalities are defined in the "System.Web.Mvc" assembly.
  • The Web API facilitates the development of RESTful services over the .Net Framework, which the MVC does not provide.

Combining MVC with Web API 

  • When we self-host an application, we integrate the MVC controller and the API into a single project. This facilitates the management of AJAX requests and allows for the return of responses in XML, JSON, and other formats.
  • To enable application authorization, we integrated MVC and Web API. We create two filters in it: one for MVC and one for the Web API.

Combining MVC with Web API


MVC and Web API, while similar, serve distinct functions. MVC creates online applications with data and views, whereas online API generates data-driven HTTP services. Key distinctions include data output (Web API is data-only), request tracing, format flexibility (Web API includes JSON, XML, and others), and features such as content negotiation and self-hosting (exclusive to Web API). They can be coupled to create self-hosted apps with AJAX and many data formats. 


Q1. What is the difference between MVC routing and Web API routing?

Web API routing is fairly similar to MVC routing if you are familiar with ASP.NET MVC. The primary distinction is that Web API selects the action based on the HTTP verb rather than the URI path. In Web API, you may also use MVC-style routing.

Q2. What is the difference between ASP.NET and ASP.NET Core MVC?

The main distinction between ASP.Net MVC and ASP.Net Core is that it is a cross-platform framework. It may be used to create web applications that operate on Windows, Linux, or macOS. The. NET Core framework allows you to select the optimum operating system for your application.

Q3. What are the benefits of Web API over MVC?

Web API enables the development of REST-full services via the.NET Framework, as well as content negotiation (the process of determining the optimal response format data that the client would accept). It could be JSON, XML, ATOM, or other formatted data), or self-hosting (which is not supported by MVC).

Q4. What is the difference between WCF and MVC?

WCF is an inter-process communication method, which means it is used when multiple processes on the same or different machines (client-server applications) need to communicate with each other. MVC, on the other hand, is a design paradigm that isolates the user interface from the backend logic.

Q5. Is Web API better than MVC?

MVC is a framework for creating web applications. MVC returns both data and views of the data, whereas Web API merely returns HTTP services data, i.e. only data. 
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About Author
Shailendra Chauhan (Microsoft MVP, Founder & CEO at Scholarhat by DotNetTricks)

Shailendra Chauhan is the Founder and CEO at ScholarHat by DotNetTricks which is a brand when it comes to e-Learning. He provides training and consultation over an array of technologies like Cloud, .NET, Angular, React, Node, Microservices, Containers and Mobile Apps development. He has been awarded Microsoft MVP 8th time in a row (2016-2023). He has changed many lives with his writings and unique training programs. He has a number of most sought-after books to his name which has helped job aspirants in cracking tough interviews with ease.
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