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WebSharper URL Shortener

This project demonstrates how to use WebSharper to build the server side and client side of a web application.

It features:

Application screenshot: "My links" page

You can see it running on Azure here.



The recommended way to develop on this project on all platforms is using Visual Studio Code with the following extensions:

  • Ionide-fsharp for F# language support.
  • C# (optionally) for the server side debugger.

To get running, start the "Run Build Task" command (Ctrl+Shift+B by default) and select the "watch" task. This starts a job that compiles the application, starts it at urls http://localhost:5000 and https://localhost:5001, and restarts this process when you save an F# file.

For the same effect from the command line, run dotnet watch run in the UrlShortener folder. Note that this needs the following environment variables set in the shell where you run it:

  • ASPNETCORE_ENVIRONMENT: development declares that this is a development environment (as opposed to eg. staging or production). It is used, among other things, to determine which appSettings file to use (see below).
  • If you're running Linux: LD_LIBRARY_PATH: <workspace folder>/packages/System.Data.SQLite.Core/runtimes/linux-x64/lib/netstandard2.0 allows the compiler and the application to find the required SQLite native library.
  • If you're running OSX: LD_LIBRARY_PATH: <workspace folder>/packages/System.Data.SQLite.Core/runtimes/osx-x64/lib/netstandard2.0 allows the compiler and the application to find the required SQLite native library.

Screenshot: Visual Studio Code

Setting up the Facebook login provider

The application demonstrates the use of OAuth login with Facebook. This means that you need a Facebook application set up to be able to log into the application. For this, you need to create a developer account on the Facebook developer console, then create an App and add Facebook Login to it.

UrlShortener retrieves the application credentials (app ID and app Secret, which you can retrieve on the Facebook console under Settings > Basic) from the application configuration. The simplest way to set it up is to create a file called appSettings.development.json in the UrlShortener directory with the following content:

    "facebook": {
        "clientId": "your app id here",
        "clientSecret": "your app secret here"

It is not recommended to add the above to the general appSettings.json: this file is committed to git, and you should never commit such credentials to source control under any circumstances.

Code walkthrough

The application's source code is structured as follows.

Diagram: internal code dependencies

Common client and server-side

  • DataModel.fs contains the core data model types and functionality.
    • The EndPoint type defines the set of HTTP endpoints served by the application, and Router can create URLs from EndPoint values and vice-versa;
    • The Link and User modules define the model for stored links and users, respectively. Each defines a set of immutable data types and related pure functions.


  • Client.fs contains the Model-View-Update client-side implementation of the "My links" page. Learn more about MVU
    • The Model module defines the state of the client-side page in terms of immutable data types. It also defines a Message type which lists all the possible events that can happen on this page.
    • The View module defines how to display the page based on this state. It uses a dispatch function to send Messages when something needs to happen.
    • The Update module defines what must happen when a Message is dispatched. This means modifying the state and/or triggering impure actions such as calling the server.
    • Finally the MyLinks function puts all these together and returns a value that can be directly included in a page.


  • Database.fs contains the database interaction code.
    • Sql instantiates SQLProvider to connect to the SQLite database, which is stored in the filesystem as db/urlshortener.db.

    • Context encapsulates the database context. It is declared as an ASP.NET Core service (see ConfigureServices in Startup.fs) in order to access the application settings and the logger through dependency injection. Learn more about ASP.NET Core dependency injection

      It contains methods for the various CRUD operations needed by the application, such as CreateLink or GetAllUserLinks.

      It also contains Migrate(), which is called on application startup to apply any outstanding migrations to the database. The migration scripts are located under db/migrations.

    • Finally, an extension property Db is added to Web.Context to easily retrieve a database Context from either a remote function or a sitelet content.

  • Authentication.fs contains the definition for the Facebook OAuth provider. It uses WebSharper.OAuth.
  • Remoting.fs contains server-side functions that are callable from the client side. They are basically wrappers for the corresponding database functions that additionally check for user authentication.
  • Site.fs contains the server side code for rendering the application's various endpoints.
    • Most pages use HTML templating to define their content. MainTemplate parses Main.html and extracts HTML snippets, marked with the ws-template attribute; F# code can then put these snippets together as needed. This also happens at run time, so editing Main.html does not require a recompile. Learn more about WebSharper.UI templating
    • Site, similarly to Database.Context, is declared as an ASP.NET Core service to gain access to dependency injection.
    • Its property Sitelet defines the site to serve. It unites together the handler from FacebookProvider with an Application.MultiPage that returns content based on the endpoint.
  • Startup.fs creates the ASP.NET Core application proper, registers WebSharper with it and runs database migrations on startup.

Deploying to Azure

This application is easy to deploy as an Azure web app. Here are the steps:

  • Create a Windows Web App on the Azure Portal.
  • Under "Application settings", add the following application settings:
    • SCM_SCRIPT_GENERATOR_ARGS: --aspNetCore UrlShortener\UrlShortener.fsproj tells Azure where to find the application to run.
    • facebook__clientId: your app id here (note the double underscore) sets the OAuth client id for the Facebook application. It is equivalent to the above appSettings.development.json.
    • facebook__clientSecret: your app id here similarly sets the OAuth client secret.
  • Under "Deployment options", set up the deployment method of your choice.
    • "Local git" is a good option: it creates a git repository that you can simply push to and the application will be built and deployed. You will need to set up the git login/password under "Deployment credentials", and retrieve the git repository URL under "Deployment Center".
    • Alternately, if you forked this repository on Github, the "Github" option will trigger a deployment every time you push there, without having to push to a separate repository.

Screenshot: Azure Portal

Going further

Happy coding!


A URL shortener web application written with WebSharper and ASP.NET Core






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