A Brief History of .NET Framework

.NET is a framework by Microsoft that helps developers create web and desktop applications easier and faster. It is extremely reliable and scalable and drives such industry giants as Starbucks or UPS.  Considering the justified popularity of this framework in the developer’s community, we decided to write a quick overview of how .NET evolved throughout the years and see the biggest milestones in its history.

Microsoft .NET strategy

In the late 1900s, Microsoft started working hard on its .NET Strategy. Back then, Bill Gates said that Microsoft would “lay foundations for the Internet of the new generation”. Sounds quite ambitious but well, it’s Bill Gates.  The main idea behind the project was to encompass all Microsoft products and add the .NET ending to the existing product names, i.e. Windows.NET.  In the 2000s, the .NET framework was known under the Next Generation Windows Services name or NGWS in short. However, as the initial .NET strategy failed, so did the name and since then, we all know the .NET framework as it is.

2000 – 2007

The first beta versions of the .NET framework were released in the late 2000s and on February 13, 2002, the first version .NET 1.0 was released. Its main feature was CLR and it supported the object-oriented development of the web apps.

Throughout the years, from 2002 to 2007, the following versions were released:

  • .NET 1.1 (April 2003): featured an array of enhancements (i.e. security enhancement for ASP.NET), support for Internet Protocol Version 6, ODBC.
  • .NET 2.0 (November 2005): had generic collections, iterators, new features for ASP.NET, nullable types, etc.
  • .NET 3.0 (November 2006): featured WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation), WCF (Windows Communication Foundation), WWF (Windows Workflow Foundation).

2007: source code made available

Before releasing the .NET 3.5 version in November, in October Microsoft made an announcement that the source code for the libraries of the upcoming version would be available under the Microsoft Reference Software License. The repository became available at the beginning of 2018.

The .NET 3.5 version included the following key features:

  • Support for AJAX,
  • Dynamic data,
  • LINQ 
  • ASP.Net MVC

Until 2014, Microsoft released a few more versions of the framework:

  • .NET 4.0 (April 2010): Managed Extensibility Framework, DLR, task parallel library, Razor view engine.
  • .NET 4.5 (August 2012): support for Async, better ASP.NET support, support for Zip compression, improved CLR 4.0
  • .NET 4.5.1 (October 2013): better performance and debugging, advanced support for Windows Store application development.

2014: the beginning of the .NET Core

.NET had many advantages but one of its biggest flaws was the inability to work on other platforms rather than Windows. To fix that, in 2014 Microsoft announced .NET Core: a cross-platform re-build of .NET framework.

.NET Core enabled developers to create apps for other OS like Linux or OS X and install different versions on one device. .NET Core was officially released in 2016. At the same time, .NET kept getting new updates and features that would help it advance and stay preferable by the developers:

  • .NET 4.5.2 (August 2014)
  • .NET 4.6 (July 2015): new JIT compiler, open source packages, support for both TLS 1.1 and TLS 1.2, better event tracing
  • .NET 4.6.1 (November 2015): better performance, better support for Digital Signature algorithm, distributed transactions in Azure SQL DB. 

What about Mono?

Mono is an open-source project that is aimed at running the .NET apps across different platforms and offer Linux developers better tools.  The thing is Mono is that incorporates parts of .NET Framework – and these are covered by the Microsoft patent (while Mono is free and open-source). So in 2016, Microsoft announced that Mono will be going under a total relicensing – MIT License, to be more specific. MIT is a permissive free software license and for Mono, it means that Microsoft will not assert any patents against companies that interact with Mono (i.e. using, selling, distributing, etc.). Mono is a free elf now.

Summing up

Being released by such a giant as Microsoft, .NET Framework could not be anything else than an awesome tool for developers around the world. While many people wrongly believe that .Net framework is outdated, there are many reasons to remember about .NET in 2019:

  • C# is a primary language for Unity – and game developers love Unity. As well, Microsoft developed C# within the .NET initiative.
  • .NET Core is faster than Java and shows really good performance
  • Visual Studio is a development tool for .NET Framework and is one of the best IDEs in the world

For now, there is no more information about further .NET Framework versions – version 4.8 is under development but we don’t have any information about it yet.