Externalizing the HttpClient internals for fun & profit

time to read 2 min | 368 words

In many respects, HttpClient is much better than using the old WebRequest API. It does a lot more for you and it is much easier to use in common scenarios.

In others, the API is extremely constraining. One such example is when you want to do incremental generation of the request (maybe based on other things that are going on). Using WebRequest, this is trivial, you get the request stream, and just start writing to it, but with HttpClient, the actual request stream is hidden several layers too deep to be very useful.

Sure, you can use PushStreamContent to actually generate the data to write to the stream, but it doesn’t help if you need to be called with more information. For example, let us imagine the following interface:


It is a pretty silly one, but it should explain things. We are first calling Init, and passing it the url we want to POST to, and then we upload multiple files to the servers. Using HttpClient, the usual way would be to gather all the file names during the Upload method, and then use PushStreamContent to push it all to the server in the Done method.

This is awkward if we have a lot of files, or if we want to generate and delete them after the upload. Luckily, we can cheat and get the same behavior as we can in WebRequest. Let us examine the code:

The first thing we do is spin a POST request to the server, but we are doing something strange, instead of generating the data when we are called on SerializeToStreamAsync, we are exposing it outside, and then returning another task. Effectively, we are telling the HttpContent that we are busy now, and it shouldn’t bug us with details until we’ll let it know.

Then, we wait to get the stream, and then we can start uploading each file in turn. At the end, we need to let the HttpClient that we are done sending data to the server, at which point we just need to wait for the server response, and we are done.