One of the hardest parts of being privy to NDA information is keeping my mouth shut about new developments that I wish I could share with you immediately, often for months at a time.

Recent developments around ASP.NET Web API (formerly WCF Web API) are a perfect example of that conundrum. As development on WCF Web API seemingly stagnated on CodePlex, Microsoft had actually rolled the project into ASP.NET itself. The project was in no danger whatsoever, but (frustratingly) I wasn’t able to tell you that.

So, it’s a relief that today’s today’s ASP.NET MVC 4 Beta release has made that news public:

Top Features

  • ASP.NET Web API
  • Refreshed and modernized default project templates
  • New mobile project template
  • Many new features to support mobile apps
  • Recipes to customize code generation
  • Enhanced support for asynchronous methods
Note: It’s not entirely clear, but installing the MVC 4 beta allows you to use Web API in WebForms projects too.

Though Web API isn’t necessarily a gigantic step forward from using MVC’s controllers as a makeshift API for simple scenarios, it’s great that ASP.NET now has common mechanism for creating these endpoints that works the same way on both WebForms and MVC.

I’ve long held out against pressure to move from ASMX to WCF in WebForms projects, because accepting WCF’s complexity primarily only rewarded me with less flexible JSON serialization. By contrast, I’ve begun converting some of my projects from ASMX to Web API, and have been pleased with how easily Web API replaces ASMX.

I believe Microsoft has finally found a good balance between ASMX’s simplicity and WCF’s power with Web API.

Since it was built with jQuery in mind from the very start, I’m finding that Web API is perfect for the sort of work that I usually write about here. It even automatically responses to requests from jQuery with JSON, even if you use simple URL encoded parameters with the request, so adding an endpoint for AJAX interaction in either WebForms or MVC is a breeze now.

I’ll be writing more about actually using Web API here in the future, but I wanted to get this post published right away to help spread the news that Web API isn’t dead.

To learn more about what exactly Web API is and does, have a look at its section in the release notes. To get up and running quickly with some example code, take a look at the new Web API material on the ASP.NET site.