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C# Tip: 2 ways to define ASP.NET Core custom Middleware

2023-07-11 3 min read CSharp Tips

Customizing the behavior of an HTTP request is easy: you can use a middleware defined as a delegate or as a class.

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Sometimes you need to create custom logic that must be applied to all HTTP requests received by your ASP.NET Core application. In these cases, you can create a custom middleware: pieces of code that are executed sequentially for all incoming requests.

The order of middlewares matters. Here’s a nice schema published on the Microsoft website:

Middleware order

A Middleware, in fact, can manipulate the incoming HttpRequest and the resulting HttpResponse objects.

In this article, we’re gonna learn 2 ways to create a middleware in .NET.

Middleware as inline delegates

The easiest way is to define a delegate function that must be defined after building the WebApplication.

By calling the Use method, you can update the HttpContext object passed as a first parameter.

app.Use(async (HttpContext context, Func<Task> task) =>
{
    context.Response.Headers.TryAdd("custom-header", "a-value");

    await task.Invoke();
});

Note that you have to call the Invoke method to call the next middleware.

There is a similar overload that accepts in input a RequestDelegate instance instead of Func<Task>, but it is considered to be less performant: you should, in fact, use the one with Func<Task>.

Middleware as standalone classes

The alternative to delegates is by defining a custom class.

You can call it whatever you want, but you have some constraints to follow when creating the class:

  • it must have a public constructor with a single parameter whose type is RequestDelegate (that will be used to invoke the next middleware);
  • it must expose a public method named Invoke or InvokeAsync that accepts as a first parameter an HttpContext and returns a Task;

Here’s an example:

public class MyCustomMiddleware
{
    private readonly RequestDelegate _next;

    public MyCustomMiddleware(RequestDelegate next)
    {
        _next = next;
    }

    public async Task InvokeAsync(HttpContext context)
    {
        context.Response.Headers.TryAdd("custom-name", "custom-value");
        await _next(context);
    }
}

Then, to add it to your application, you have to call

app.UseMiddleware<MyCustomMiddleware>();

Delegates or custom classes?

Both are valid methods, but each of them performs well in specific cases.

For simple scenarios, go with inline delegates: they are easy to define, easy to read, and quite performant. But they are a bit difficult to test.

For complex scenarios, go with custom classes: this way you can define complex behaviors in a single class, organize your code better, use Dependency Injection to pass services and configurations to the middleware. Also, defining the middleware as a class makes it more testable. The downside is that, as of .NET 7, using a middleware resides on reflection: UseMiddleware invokes the middleware by looking for a public method named Invoke or InvokeAsync. So, theoretically, using classes is less performant than using delegates (I haven’t benchmarked it yet, though!).

Wrapping up

On Microsoft documentation you can find a well-explained introduction to Middlewares:

🔗 ASP.NET Core Middleware | Microsoft docs

And some suggestions on how to write a custom middleware as standalone classes:

🔗 Write custom ASP.NET Core middleware | Microsoft docs

I hope you enjoyed this article! Let’s keep in touch on Twitter or LinkedIn! 🤜🤛

Happy coding!

🐧