Differences between WCF and a Web service

There are some major differences that exist between WCF and a Web service which are listed below.

  • Attributes – WCF service is defined by ServiceContract and OperationContract attributes, whereas a web service is defined by WebService and WebMethod attributes.
  • Protocols – WCF supports a range of protocols, i.e., HTTP, Named Pipes, TCP, and MSMQ, whereas a web service only supports HTTP protocol.
  • Hosting Mechanisms – Various activation mechanisms are there for WCF hosting, i.e., IIS (Internet Information Service), WAS (Windows Activation Service), Self-hosting and Windows Service, but a web service is hosted only by IIS.
  • Services – WCF supports a robust security, trustworthy messaging, transaction and interoperability, while a web service only supports security services.
  • Serializer – WCF Supports DataContract serializer by employing System.Runtime.Serialization, whereas a web service supports XML serializer by making use of System.Xml.Serialization.
  • Tools – ServiceMetadata tool (svcutil.exe) is used for client generation for a WCF service, while WSDL.EXE tool is used for generating the same for a web service.
  • Exception Handling – In WCF, unhandled exceptions are handled in a better way by making use of FaultContract. They do not return to the client like in a web service as SOAP faults.
  • Hash Table – It is possible to serialize a Hash Table in WCF, but this is not the case in a web service.
  • Bindings – WCF supports several types of bindings like BasicHttpBinding, WSDualHttpBinding, WSHttpBinding, etc., while a web service supports only SOAP or XML.
  • Multithreading – WCF supports multithreading by using the ServiceBehavior Class, whereas this is not supported in a web service.
  • Duplex Service Operations – WCF supports duplex service operations apart from supporting one-way and request-response service operations, whereas a web service does not support duplex service operations.

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