Retrieving HTTP content in .NET

Introduction

HTTP content retrieval is an important component for applications these days. Although .NET reduces the need to explicitly retrieve content from the Web through built-in mechanisms in the Web Services framework, ADO.NET and the XML classes, there are still many needs to retrieve Web content directly and manipulate it as text or data downloaded into files. In this article Rick describes the functionality of the HttpWebRequest and HttpWebResponse classes and provides an easy to use wrapper class. The class simplifies the HTTP access and provides most of the common features in an easy to use single interface while still providing full access to the base functionality of the HttpWebRequest class. In the process Rick describes some sticky issues like string encoding and Cookie handling and some related topics like implementing events and running multiple threads to service Web requests.

Last week I decided I needed a good, useful project to throw at .NET to continue my learning curve while actually building something I have a use for. A few years back I'd written a Web Monitoring package that allows me to monitor a set of Web sites and send out alerts when the sites are down and not responding. The app has been showing its age and since it was developed using C++ it has a clunky user interface that's not very maintainable. I thought this would be a good 'training' application to re-build for .NET. This application exercises HTTP functionality built into the .NET Framework, requires setting up and running multiple threads, hooking up events and managing a small set of data without a database backend and finally providing a Windows Form UI. In the future converting this application to work as a Windows service would also be a nice feature. This application is one that lets me explore a wide variety of features of a programming environment. In this month's article I'll describe a few of the features that I needed to build focusing specifically on the HTTP retrieval mechanism.

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