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.NET vs .NET Framework: An In-depth Comparison

May 18, 2023

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When it comes to software development, selecting the right technology stack is paramount to success. Per the latest Stack Overflow survey, .NET became the most loved technology in 2022, with 34.55% of developers choosing it as their preferred framework.

Microsoft introduced the .NET Framework 1.0 in 2002, exclusively for the Windows platform. Since then, it has undergone numerous updates to keep pace with the evolving trends in software development. More recently, Microsoft revamped the architecture of the .NET Framework to streamline the development, testing, and deployment of modern software applications. This led to the launch of .NET (formerly named .NET Core) in 2016. Both .NET Framework and .NET have significantly changed and improved over the years, making them powerful tools, each with its pros and cons.

This article will delve into the key contrasts between .NET and .NET Framework and offer valuable insights into their respective strengths and weaknesses. Whether you’re building web applications, desktops, or mobile apps, grasping the disparities between these two robust frameworks can assist you in selecting the most appropriate tool for your project.

What is .NET Framework?

.NET Framework is a software framework for developing Windows applications, including web-based applications, form-based applications, and web services. The framework supports programming languages, such as C#, Visual Basic, and more, providing a consistent programming model across all of them.

What is .NET?

.NET is a free and open-source cross-platform programming framework. It is designed for building innovative device, cloud, and IoT applications that may perform on various operating platforms such as Windows, Linux, and macOS.

.NET vs .NET Framework Overview

.NET .NET Framework
First version release 2016 2002
Last major version release 2023 2016
Ownership Open-source Proprietary
Performance Lightweight and efficient Heavier and less optimized
Deployment Highly adaptable deployment model Severely limited deployment model
Compatibility Works on multiple operating systems Limited to running exclusively on the Windows
Support for WCF Services No native support for WCF services, but Core WCF project enables building WCF services Supports WCF services
Support for Microservices Better support for microservices Poor level of support for microservices
Security Built on robust security principles Compatible with old legacy security features
Mobile Development Preferred choice for mobile development Lacks support for mobile development
Application Types Supports console, desktop, web applications, mobile native applications and microservices Supports console, desktop, and web applications

9 Key Differences between .NET and .NET Framework

Ownership

.NET is an open-source platform with openly available source code. This implies that developers may view and customize the source code as needed, resulting in a more flexible development environment.

The .NET Framework is still mostly closed source, however several open-source components, such as Roslyn and ML.NET, could be used on both .NET and .NET Framework.

Performance

When it comes to performance, .NET and .NET Framework differ significantly. This is partly because .NET is built to be lightweight and efficient, with a smaller runtime and fewer dependencies. Moreover, it has been optimized to meet the demands of cloud-based applications, which often require high levels of scalability and performance.

Every year, a new version of .NET is released with numerous performance improvements. They are related to different areas of code compilation (new on-demand RyuJIT compiler, IL trimming), more effective memory management (improved algorithm for garbage collection), Regex execution improvements, and other algorithms used by developers.

On the other hand, updates to .NET Framework includes only security fixes. The latest major release of the .NET Framework, version 4.6, was unveiled in 2016.

Deployment Model

.NET offers a highly adaptable deployment model. .NET uses its own web server called Kestrel, which is designed to be used with any other web server (as a reverse proxy) like IIS, nginx or Apache. In addition .NET applications could be easily hosted in Docker containers.

In contrast, .NET Framework can only be deployed on the Internet Information Server. The application’s flexibility is severely limited since it must be developed to operate on IIS and may not be compatible with other types of servers or hosting setups.

Compatibility

.NET Framework is limited to running exclusively on the Windows operating system. However, it is highly compatible with a wide range of third-party libraries and tools.

On the other hand, .NET is a cross-platform framework that was designed to work on multiple operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and macOS. Unfortunately, .NET may not be compatible with all .NET Framework libraries and tools, and some modifications may need to be made in order to ensure compatibility.

Support for WCF Services

The .NET platform doesn’t provide native support for creating WCF services. However, if clients of your service require SOAP protocol communication, you can utilize the open-source Core WCF project to build WCF services via .NET. It’s important to note that Core WCF offers only basic WCF features, so ensure that it meets all your requirements.

.NET Framework supports WCF services and also has support for REST services, although it does not offer much flexibility in designing or deploying microservices.

Support for Microservices

.NET has better support for microservices than .NET Framework. It was designed to be lightweight and modular, making it ideal for building microservices-based applications. It has built-in support for containerization and Kubernetes orchestration, which makes it easier to deploy and manage microservices in a distributed environment.

.NET Framework does not have the same level of support for microservices. While it can support microservices, it might demand the use of extra tools and frameworks to attain the same degree of flexibility and scalability as .NET.

Security

Both .NET and .NET Framework place a strong emphasis on security; nonetheless, it’s crucial to acknowledge their disparities in terms of supported security features. The .NET Framework maintains compatibility with old legacy security features. While these features may still be effective, they may lack the incorporation of latest advancements and contemporary security measures found in .NET.

.NET, on the other hand, being the newer and open-source platform, is built on current security principles and includes robust security enhancements. Features like, role-based access control, data encryption, support for SSL/TLS protocol, ensure that applications built on .NET are safeguarded against potential vulnerabilities and threats.

Mobile Development

When it comes to mobile development, .NET is the favored choice since it empowers the creation of cross-platform mobile apps employing frameworks such as Xamarin, allowing developers to write code once and distribute it on various platforms such as Android and iOS.

Since the .NET Framework is designed exclusively for Windows, it cannot facilitate mobile development.

Application Types

Both .NET and .NET Framework support a variety of application types, including console, desktop, and web applications.

However, .NET extends its array of benefits to encompass the development of mobile native applications and microservices.

.NET and .NET Framework Similarities

Even though they have plenty of differences, they do share some similarities as well. Here are some of them:

  • They both are Windows-based operating systems.
  • They provide access to the .NET Standard library, which defines a set of APIs that are common across all .NET implementations.
  • Both provide significant object-oriented programming support and share concepts such as base class library.

When to choose .NET?

  • One of the most notable advantages of .NET is its cross-platform support. .NET may be used to create applications that operate on Windows, Linux, and macOS.
  • .NET is geared for performance, making it an excellent choice for developing apps that must process massive volumes of data or manage high levels of traffic.
  • If you are working on a microservices-based solution in which individual services are built and delivered independently, .NET is an excellent choice. Because of its lightweight and flexible architecture, you can build small, targeted services that can be scaled independently.
  • .NET is highly compatible with containers, making it ideal for deploying cross-platform server applications to Docker containers.
  • Some developers favor working with lightweight editors and command line interfaces. Fortunately, .NET offers a CLI for all supported platforms that necessitates minimal installation on production machines. Additionally, developers can always switch to a more comprehensive IDE, like the Visual Studio IDE, if needed.

When to choose .NET Framework?

  • If an application is already written in .NET Framework, migrating it to newer technologies like .NET may be a difficult and time-consuming task due to the large amount of code. In such instances, you can continue using the .NET Framework and to keep it up to date with the latest security patches and upgrades in order to retain its security and functioning.
  • Not all technologies supported by .NET Framework are available in .NET. Some examples of such technologies include MSMQ, ASP.NET MVC, ASP.NET Web Forms, and Workflow Foundation. However, it’s worth noting that these technologies are considered outdated and are not likely to receive further updates.

Leobit’s .NET Projects

Leobit has successfully delivered a wide range of projects using .NET and .NET frameworks, ranging from enterprise-grade solutions to small and medium-sized applications. Here are some of them:

Using .NET and other technologies, Leobit assisted a startup in achieving global reach and increasing its user base by a factor of 10. Specifically, we developed an interactive cycling solution and ensured it was compatible with the necessary hardware. As a result of our collaboration, the user base of the product expanded from 20,000 to 200,000.

Leveraging capabilities of .NET, Leobit developed a product that provides various features such as simultaneous broadcasting to multiple targets, media team management, fan interaction, viewer engagement, and more.

Our experts utilized the latest approaches in .NET software development to create code that integrates the system with various payment gateways in compliance with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). This integration enables customers to process more transactions, improve the security of digital payments, and support a complete range of payment options.

Conclusion

The .NET Framework was once widely recognized as an exceptional tool for software development, offering developers a strong foundation and a vibrant ecosystem. It was ahead of its time, providing a distinctive platform that facilitated the development of convenient applications with relative ease. However, in today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape, it encounters challenges in keeping up with the demands of the new era. The demand for cross-platform development has experienced substantial growth, and as technologies continue to advance, the .NET Framework finds itself trailing behind. Its limitations become more evident as it fails to adequately support newer features and deliver optimal performance on modern hardware.

Conversely, .NET offers a more modern, flexible, and high-performance platform with cross-platform compatibility. Although, if you already have an application built on .NET Framework, it may be better to stick with it rather than migrating to .NET due to the extensive amount of code changes involved in such a process. However, if you are considering a platform for a new application, it’s highly recommended to choose .NET. It is clear that .NET represents the future of development and is the best choice for staying competitive in the fast-paced tech landscape of today.

Curious to delve deeper into .NET? Explore our article covering the pros and cons of .NET development and a comprehensive comparison between .NET and Java.

Sofiia Martyniuk
Sofiia Martyniuk
Market Data Analyst
Vasyl Vasyuta
Vasyl Vasyuta
Lead Full Stack .NET Developer