What is .NET? You might have heard of .NET, .NET Core, the .NET Framework, and even ASP.NET. That can make the entire concept of .NET a little confusing. All these technologies are related to each other, but they’re not the same platform. Rather, they’re all parts of a larger ecosystem that Microsoft has supported for many years.
Today, there are likely to be at least 7 to 8 million .NET developers globally, with an average salary of $93,076 a year. C#, F#, and Visual Basic programmers can all benefit from the knowledge of the .NET platform. Not only is it a versatile system, but it has a tremendous amount of community support.
In this article, we will take a deeper look at .NET, the .NET Framework, and what makes .NET technology so important.
What is .NET?
Released in 2016, Microsoft .NET (previously known as .NET Core) is an open-source, cross-platform iteration of the previous .NET Framework.
.NET can be used to build a wide variety of applications, including desktop apps, mobile apps, games, web apps, and IoT devices. Because it’s open-source, .NET can also take advantage of numerous libraries, languages, and editors.
Programmers can write .NET applications using the C#, Visual Basic, or F#. Applications can then be pushed from .NET to Windows, Linux, or MacOS. Furthermore, .NET has a highly active community of thousands of developers. With such a vibrant community, there’s an extensive library of resources available for both beginners and advanced users.
Many conflate .NET with Microsoft Visual Studio and Visual Basic. It’s easy to see why.
.NET and Visual Studio are used together to create applications. So, a programmer’s primary experience with .NET may occur in the Visual Studio platform.
But they are not the same thing. .NET is the application development tool designed for writing applications, whereas .NET also encompasses the ecosystem and infrastructure designed to support those applications.
What is .NET Framework?
The .NET Framework was an earlier iteration of .NET. It was released in 2002 and only worked on Microsoft Windows for Microsoft Windows application development.
Essentially, the .NET Framework was a framework that Microsoft designed for programming Microsoft Windows applications on Microsoft Windows devices. It has since been replaced by services such as Microsoft’s K2.
Originally, .NET was not an open-source product. The .NET Framework was a proprietary solution. But since then, Microsoft has embraced a more open-source methodology and has opened up many of its platforms. The .NET Framework released in 2019 was the last proprietary version of .NET.
What Does .NET Framework Do?
When first conceived and released, the .NET Framework provided a standardized software development framework to facilitate Microsoft Windows development. Today, the .NET product provides an open-source development framework for multiple channels. Developed by the .NET Foundation and released under the MIT License, the .NET Framework is intended to make developing easier, faster, and more consistent.
There is a tremendous ecosystem connected to .NET, including:
- WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation). A user-interface tool that helps in designing Windows OS and Desktop applications.
- Windows Forms. The .NET Framework GUI Library, which can be used for Windows desktop applications.
- ASP.NET Forms. A web application framework that helps in designing secure and accessible web-based applications.
What is .NET Used For?
.NET includes a number of critical components that facilitate development:
- Application frameworks and libraries.
- Runtime components and language compilers.
- Support for languages such as C#, F#, and Visual Basic.
- Tools such as Visual Studio.
.NET can be used to create desktop applications, web applications, mobile apps, cloud-native applications, games, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
Because .NET has such incredible breadth, it’s sought after within many industries. A .NET programmer will find themselves extremely in demand.
At the same time, .NET is just a framework. To produce an end product with .NET, a developer has to know one of the corresponding languages — C#, F#, or Visual Basic.
What Are the Pros and Cons of .NET?
.NET is used by many developers. It’s easy to see why. There are a lot of positives:
- The Visual Studio IDE. The Visual Studio IDE is an easy-to-use development environment that can support C#, F#, or Visual Basic. Through the IDE, developers will be able to quickly identify syntax or grammar issues and will be able to compile their programs quickly.
- Cross-Platform Development. .NET can be used to develop for Windows, Linux, or MacOS, making it a useful cross-platform solution. When .NET is used for web apps, it can be used to create completely platform-agnostic applications.
- Open Source Development. .NET became much more powerful when it became an open-source solution. As an open-source solution, it has the support of an extremely large community and has experienced many improvements throughout the years.
- Object-Oriented Programming. Object-oriented programming makes development easier, faster, and more consistent for developers.
- Language Support. As C#, F#, and Visual Basic programmers can all use .NET, it’s a very versatile solution.
- Universal .NET Standards. The standardization of .NET has been baked in for many years – it’s one of the most important components to the .NET Framework and the .NET system. Universal standards make it easier for libraries and components to be designed for .NET, growing the .NET ecosystem.
- Community Support. .NET has extraordinary community support. Not only does that mean that documentation is readily available, but it also means that there are code snippets, lessons, courses, and other resources.
But that doesn’t mean the solution is perfect. There are downsides, too:
- Some Licensing Requirements. Not the entire ecosystem is open source. Some tools do require licensing, especially those that are released and distributed by Microsoft. Microsoft retains control over the product through the Microsoft Foundation.
- Memory Leaks. .NET has been known to experience memory leaks as well as issues caching. Of course, this is an issue for many languages — it’s not exclusive to .NET. Still, developers who are trying to produce lean products may be more inclined to use another language.
- Language. Though .NET does support programming in C#, F#, and Visual Basic, it doesn’t support all major programming languages. Developers who program in Java or Python, for instance, will not be able to program in .NET without learning another language entirely.
Some developers consider .NET an archaic or antiquated technology. While this may be true for earlier versions of the .NET Framework, .NET continues to grow and advance as an open-source product fueled by an active community.
How Can You Learn .NET Programming?
Programmers can develop for .NET with C#, F#, or Visual Basic.
- C#. A general-purpose programming language, C# is the latest iteration of the C programming language line. C is a very powerful component-oriented programming language — having a certification in C# can open many doors for a programmer.
- Visual Basic. Microsoft’s flagship programming language, Visual Basic finds its way into many Microsoft development applications. Visual Basic is intentionally designed to be easy to learn and easy to use. It’s had a thriving community since 1991. But while it’s still used, it is somewhat deprecated.
Of these languages, C# is likely the most commonly known programming language. It is a flexible, extensible programming language that can be used for virtually anything.
Recommended .Net Course for Beginners
.NET is a broad development framework. So, there are a lot of competitors that might be used in tandem to replace its functionality.
One example is the Linux, Apache Server, MySQL, and PHP stack. These are four technologies that can replace a .NET web application. But these are not, in themselves, a framework; to create an actual framework, a PHP MVC framework such as CakePHP would also need to be added.
Other .NET alternatives include:
- K2 Software. Microsoft’s K2 Software is a proprietary solution that makes it easier to create business applications.
- Pega Platform. A software development kit that makes it easier to quickly build applications through visually-driven application development.
- OnBase by Hyland. An enterprise content management and project management system geared toward creating usable platforms.
- IntelliJ IDEA. A Java-based integrated development environment designed for creating computer software, available in a commercial and non-commercial edition.
As a development framework, the extensiveness and reach of .NET are quite unique. Because it was first developed as a Microsoft-centered methodology of creating Windows applications, it’s designed as a fully-featured suite geared toward a singular purpose.
Today, it’s far more extensible and flexible. But the .NET ecosystem still represents one of the most feature-complete development systems.
Learning .NET: Taking the Next Steps
So, what is .NET? .NET is an open-source software development framework. .NET is used to build web applications, mobile applications, and desktop applications. The development framework supports C#, F#, and Visual Basic — and it produces fully cross-platform applications.
There’s a lot of promise in .NET technology. Through the .NET ecosystem, a software developer can get essentially everything they need in a single, compact system. Visual Basic, ASP.NET, and the .NET Framework; all work together to help create a cohesive development kit.
If you’re interested in learning .NET, you should first know one of its three core languages – such as Visual Basic. From there, you can take lessons in .NET, attend a bootcamp, or sign up for a course.