Understanding the HttpClient: An Overview with code

Understanding the HttpClient: An Overview with code

Learn the differences in HttpClient implementation for .Net framework and .Net 6.

Previously on...

Change is inevitable! I often find myself diving into new codebases and projects, each with its own set of challenges. Previously I explored the IConfiguration of DotNet with references to Net Framework. I will explore now a scenario that I am tasked with modernizing an application's HttpClient usage.


I arrive at the customer's site, ready to dive into the codebase. As I explore the application, I notice that the HttpClient usage is outdated and relies on manual and repetitive configuration. Each request is created and managed individually, with setting BaseUri, OAuth2 Headers and APIM Subscription keys and disposing of the HttpClient. That repetitiveness leads to code duplication. Manual disposing of the HTTP client can lead to performance issues.

However that the codebase is in DotNet 6, why are developers still using the same way of working as in .Net Framework?

There are numerous reasons. Some people are working with .NET Framework for a long time! While the syntax is the same, DotNet is built from the ground up. Working with the same syntax gives a false sense of familiarity.

Another possibility is that developers may not be fully aware of the benefits and advantages of using HttpClient how it is intended to use.

Code sometimes seems just to simple too, which can feel like a hassle for the untrained. For simple use cases where only a few HTTP requests are made, using HttpClient with a using statement just seems easy to do.

Migrating an entire codebase to adopt a new way of working, without coaching and guidance, can be a time-consuming and resource-intensive process. Developers might prioritize other tasks and will take shortcuts, wich will lead to technical dept in the future.

Problems with DotNet Framework HttpClient

The .Net Framework HttpClient had its problems. The HttpClient had limited control over connection management. It did not handle socket exceptions or connection failures gracefully. That leads to issues when dealing with unreliable networks or high-traffic scenarios.

It also has limited timeout-handling capabilities. I had to rely on workarounds or custom code to implement timeouts for HTTP requests.

In the old days, the HttpClient was not designed with dependency injection in mind. This made it challenging to mock or replace HttpClient instances during unit testing. It required creating a wrapper or using complex techniques to inject a mock implementation. The tightly coupled nature of HttpClient made it difficult to isolate and mock its behaviour.

The HttpClient had limited flexibility in handling request and response content. It lacked built-in support for content negotiation, deserialization, or handling different media types.

Creating a new instance of HttpClient for each request in the .NET Framework had performance implications. It resulted in the overhead: DNS resolution and TCP connections

DotNet HttpClient

The HttpClient has a lot of improvements:

DotNet & Framework

In the .NET Framework, the HttpClient creates HTTP requests. Behind the scenes, HttpClient used the HttpWebRequest class to perform the actual network communication. This meant that each HttpClient instance created a new underlying HttpWebRequest.

Let us take a look at the sequence diagram:

The HttpClient has been completely reworked to address the limitations. The new HttpClient is a cross-platform implementation. It uses the new HttpMessageHandler. That HttpMessageHandler provides an efficient and performant way to make HTTP requests.

Let's take a look at the updated sequence diagram to understand the changes.

In the image above, the HttpClient does not rely on the class HttpWebRequest. I The sequencediagram shows that there is a difference between setting up the Httpclient and using the HttpClient. The HttpClient uses the HttpMessageHandler to handle the http requests. There is no more overhead of creating a new instance for each request. This results in improved performance!

DotNet HttpClient Features

Now that I have explored the changes in HttpClient, let's take a closer look at some of the new features and improvements.

The new HttpClient introduces connection pooling. This allows multiple requests to reuse the same underlying TCP connection. This significantly improves performance by reducing the overhead of establishing new connections for each request. The HttpClient handles the decompression like gzip or deflate! Besides connection pooling and auto decompression, the HTTP client provides better control over request timeouts. I can now set individual timeouts for different stages of the request. Those stages are:

  • establishing a connection,

  • sending the request,

  • and receiving the response.

This will help my application handle timeouts and prevent bottlenecks.

To keep up with modern standards, the HttpClient supports HTTP/2. That is the latest version of the HTTP protocol. HTTP/2 offers improved performance by allowing multiple requests to be multiplexed over a single TCP connection. This results in faster web applications. Read more about it on Cloudflare.

How to use it?

  • Create your own HttpClient or... ( do not please)

  • Use the HttpExtension methods and thus use the IHttpClientFactory

The HttpClientFactory is a feature introduced in .NET Core 2.1 and continued in .NET 5/6. That provides a centralized and efficient way to create and manage HttpClient instances.

Microsoft does lever us official guidance on what to use. .AddHttpClient and/or the HttpClientFactory.

HttpClient instances created by IHttpClientFactory are intended to be short-lived.

  • Recycling and recreating HttpMessageHandler's when their lifetime expires is essential for IHttpClientFactory to ensure the handlers react to DNS changes. HttpClient is tied to a specific handler instance upon its creation, so new HttpClient instances should be requested in a timely manner to ensure the client will get the updated handler.

  • Disposing of such HttpClient instances created by the factory will not lead to socket exhaustion, as its disposal will not trigger disposal of the HttpMessageHandler. IHttpClientFactory tracks and disposes of resources used to create HttpClient instances, specifically the HttpMessageHandler instances, as soon their lifetime expires and there's no HttpClient using them anymore.


There are multiple ways of working with the HTTP client. I made a summary from Use the IHttpClientFactory - .NET | Microsoft Learn into an overview table.

UsageHow Registered in ServiceCollectionHow Consumed in CodeWhen to UseProsConsImportant NotesWho is Disposing the HttpClient?Who is Disposing the Handler?
Basic Usageservices.AddHttpClient()IHttpClientFactory.CreateClient()ORconstructor(HttpClient httpClient)Refactoring an existing app that creates HttpClient instances.SimpleNo control over the lifetime of HttpClient instances.Automatic pooling and management of HttpClientMessageHandler instances.Disposed by the factoryDisposed by the factory
Named Clientsservices.AddHttpClient("Name", ...)IHttpClientFactory.CreateClient("Name")Multiple distinct uses of HttpClient with different configurations.Easy configuration of different clients with specific headers, base URLs, etc.Requires manual client retrieval using the client name each time a request is made.Automatic pooling and management of HttpClientMessageHandler instances, separate for each named client.Disposed by the factoryDisposed by the factory
Typed Clientsservices.AddHttpClient<T>()HttpClientFactory<T>.CreateClient(...)OR constructor(HttpClient httpClient)When consuming a specific HttpClient with typed handlers.Strong typing and improved IntelliSense support.Requires creating and maintaining a separate class for each typed client.Automatic pooling and management of HttpClientMessageHandler instances, separate for each typed client.Disposed by the factoryDisposed by the factory
Generated Clientsservices.AddRefitClient<T>()IServiceProvider.GetRequiredService<T>() OR constructor(T refitClient)When using third-party libraries like Refit for REST APIs.Dynamic generation of HttpClient implementations for REST APIs.Limited control over the generated client configuration.Automatic pooling and management of HttpClientMessageHandler instances, separate for each generated client.Disposed by the consumerDisposed by the consumer

Using direct HttpClient injection involves manually configuring an instance of HttpClient with the handlers into the services. Do not use this approach.

The IHttpClientFactory provides a centralized way of managing and reusing HttpClient instances. This approach helps address issues related to long-lived HttpClient instances, including DNS changes, connection pooling, and proper resource disposal. By calling the AddHttpClient method on the service collection, there is a HttpClient is ready to be injected into the services.

This approach is suitable for smaller or simpler projects where direct injection is sufficient. To quote Microsoft:

Lifetime management of HttpClient instances created by IHttpClientFactory is completely different from instances created manually. The strategies are to use either short-lived clients created by IHttpClientFactory or long-lived clients with PooledConnectionLifetime set up. For more information, see the HttpClient lifetime management section and Guidelines for using HTTP clients.

I need to define multiple HttpClient configurations to access multiple endpoints. I have to use a key that uniquely identifies a HttpClient configuration. This is done by using AddHttpClient("key") on the service collection.

To use a specific configuration of the HttpClient, I inject the IHttpClientFactory and use the key that corresponds to that configuration. The HttpClient should be disposed of when using the IHttpClientFactory.

Instead of working with named HttpClient's creations on the IHttpClientFactory, Typed clients are a convenient and type-safe way to work with. Register it with the dependency injection container using the AddHttpClient<IServiceInterface,MyHttpClientConsumerService> method. The service is registered in the container as transient! I do not need to register it again! Typed clients make HTTP calls more structured and maintainable. It is important that the HttpClient that is not injected into a singleton service! I quote Microsoft on this one:

Typed clients are expected to be short-lived in the same sense as HttpClient instances created by IHttpClientFactory (for more information, see HttpClient lifetime management). As soon as a typed client instance is created, IHttpClientFactory has no control over it. If a typed client instance is captured in a singleton, it may prevent it from reacting to DNS changes, defeating one of the purposes of IHttpClientFactory.

When using typed clients, I have two options for creating them. The default approach uses the IHttpClientFactory behind the scenes, using .AddHttpClient<,> method. The HttpClient will be created and managed by the DI container. It simplifies the creation of HttpClient instances.

// Define the typed client interface
public interface IMyTypedClient
    Task<MyModel> GetData();
public class MyTypedClient
    HttpClient _httpClient...
    public MyTypedClient(HttpClient httpClient)
        _httpClient = httpClient;

    public async Task<MyModel> GetData()
        return _httpClient.GetAsync(...)
// Register the typed client with the default IHttpClientFactory
services.AddHttpClient<IMyTypedClient, MyTypedClient>();

// Inject the typed client into a class or controller
private readonly IMyTypedClient _myTypedClient;

public MyClass(IMyTypedClient myTypedClient)
    _myTypedClient = myTypedClient;

// Usage
var data = await _myTypedClient.GetData();

I also can use the Named HttpClient instances. Named clients are useful for more advanced scenarios where I need fine-grained control over HttpClient settings. However, I need to use the IHttpClientFactory to create my Named HttpClient instance.

// Register a named HttpClient instance with additional configurations
services.AddHttpClient("MyNamedClient", client =>
    client.BaseAddress = new Uri("https://api.example.com");
    // Other HttpClient configurations

// Inject the named client into a class or controller
private readonly HttpClient _myNamedClient;

public MyClass(IHttpClientFactory httpClientFactory)
    _myNamedClient = httpClientFactory.Create("MyNamedClient");

// Usage
var data = await _myNamedClient.GetAsync(".../Data");

Polly integrates!

Polly is a .NET resilience and transient-fault-handling library that allows developers to express policies such as Retry, Circuit Breaker, Timeout, Bulkhead Isolation, Rate-limiting and Fallback in a fluent and thread-safe manner.

Polly can be used with the IHttpClientFactory. The integration allows me to apply policies to the HttpClient instances created by the IHttpClientFactory.

    .AddTransientHttpErrorPolicy(policy => policy.RetryAsync(3))
    .AddTransientHttpErrorPolicy(policy => policy.CircuitBreakerAsync(5, TimeSpan.FromSeconds(30)));

In this example, two Polly policies are applied to the HttpClient with the name "MyClient":

  • RetryAsync: Retry failed requests up to 3 times.

  • CircuitBreakerAsync: Break the circuit if 5 consecutive requests fail within a 30-second window.

It is not needed to have try-catch scenarios in the code itself to react on e.g. HTTP status codes and invent the backoff interval.

Explore the Polly documentation for more advanced usage and customization options!

Remember to configure Polly policies according to your application's specific needs! There is a potential impact on the underlying services and resources being called. E.g. if a request is retried multiple times, it can result in duplicate data creation, unintended modifications, or unintended deletion of resources.

Mocking DotNet HttpClient

Because the HttpClient is just a facade, I do not mock the HttpClient, but rather the HttpMessageHandler that the HttpClient uses. By using a mocked HttpMessageHandler, I can control the behaviour of the HttpClient. This allows me to test my code without making actual network requests.

// Create a mocked HttpMessageHandler
var mockHandler = new Mock<HttpMessageHandler>();
    .ReturnsAsync(new HttpResponseMessage(HttpStatusCode.OK));

var httpClient = new HttpClient(mockHandler.Object);

// Use the HttpClient in your unit tests
var response = await httpClient.GetAsync("https://api.example.com/users");

// Assert the expected behavior
Assert.Equal(HttpStatusCode.OK, response.StatusCode);

In the code above, I use a mocked HttpMessageHandler. Notice that I do not mock the HttpClient. The HttpClient is just a facade. The actual work happens with the HttpMessageHandlers.

When I want to test more integrated with multiple classes, I override my registrations in my service collection. This enables me to mock the HttpClient and control its behaviour in the grand scheme of things. The HttpClient's HttpMessageHandler can be replaced with a mocked version without modifying the code under test.

// Create a mocked HttpMessageHandler
var mockHandler = new Mock<HttpMessageHandler>();
    .ReturnsAsync(new HttpResponseMessage(HttpStatusCode.OK));

// Create a new ServiceCollection
var services = new ServiceCollection();

// Register the HttpClient with the mocked HttpMessageHandler
    .ConfigurePrimaryHttpMessageHandler(() => mockHandler.Object);

// Build the ServiceProvider
var serviceProvider = services.BuildServiceProvider();

// Resolve the HttpClient from the ServiceProvider
var httpClient = serviceProvider.GetRequiredService<IHttpClientFactory>()

// Use the HttpClient in your unit tests
var response = await httpClient.GetAsync("https://api.example.com/users");

// Assert the expected behavior
Assert.Equal(HttpStatusCode.OK, response.StatusCode);

In the above example, I create a mocked HttpMessageHandler using Moq. The test is set up to return an HTTP 200 OK response for any request. I register the HttpClient with the mocked HttpMessageHandler in the ServiceCollection. I do that by using the AddHttpClient method and configure the primary HttpMessageHandler. Finally, I resolve the HttpClient from the ServiceProvider and use it in the unit test.


I did have some difficulties writing this post. There is enough documentation to find, but all the different ways of creating an HttpClient and the lifetime of the service and instances threw me off.

However, I think I managed to explain what the evolution of the HttpClient went trough and how to use the HttpClient in Dotnet 6.

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