The .Net Framework is a completely new model for building systems on the windows family of operating systems and additional operating systems now and in the future. It provides common environment to build a wide range of applications including:

  • Web applications
  • Windows applications
  • Component libraries
  • Mobility-enabled applications
  • Web services

The .NET framework created by Microsoft is a software development platform focused on rapid application development, platform independence and network transparency. .NET is Microsoft's strategic initiative for server and desktop development for the next decade. According to Microsoft, .NET includes many technologies that are designed to facilitate rapid development of Internet and intranet applications.

Though some believe that technologies used in .NET were originally developed by Microsoft as their version of the Java platform, the truth is that many of the teams working on .NET initially set out to create COM+ 2.5. Other departments were also improving other Microsoft technologies; the web server department was creating ASP 4.0 and the Microsoft distributed computing departments were creating what was called "Next-Generation Window Services". The work from the various departments merged into one system now called .NET.

When Microsoft decided to end their future use of Sun's Java technologies in 1998, the existing Microsoft J++ (Java) product was transformed into the beginnings of the .NET project. Code from the .NET Common Language Runtime (CLR) was said to have come from Colusa Software's OmniVM, which Microsoft acquired on March 12, 1996.

The CLR is the Microsoft implementation of the ECMA CLI standard for the Windows platform only. The Mono framework provides a partial implementation of the CLI and some parts of the .NET framework for Linux and Solaris. While the original model of .NET was that of a general foundation (.NET framework) with three primary pillars (ASP.NET, Windows, and Web Services), the model for .NET 2.0 is that of a foundation for Microsoft's next generation platform known as WinFX, which is the unification of Microsoft development technologies into one programming model. WinFX is also the replacement for the long-lived Win32 API introduced in the early 1990s. The FX in WinFX (often pronounced as Win effects) is the abbreviation for the .NET Framework thus giving .NET the tall standing of being the foundation of the majority of future Microsoft-based development, higher or lower level.

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