A history of the Microsoft .NET Framework
The .NET Framework is an Internet-based program used for software development, which makes it a key component for developing applications. According to Microsoft, .NET “provides a comprehensive and consistent programming model for building applications that have visually stunning user experiences and seamless and secure communication”, and that it is “an integral part of many applications running on Windows”. The .NET Framework allows the development of Windows applications, web applications and websites.
The reason the .NET Framework exists is simple. Originally, each piece of software had to be written from scratch, and because there was no common ground for different teams to work on, the same team was required to build each piece of software.
There was no portability and programmers spent much time simply inputting routine codes. With the purpose and design of computers becoming increasingly complex, the coding situation needed to be less complex, and the result was programming languages that had libraries built in. A software engineer could then simply call upon a native function, like drawing a line on the screen, or create his own libraries to be connected to other software projects. Natural progression led to the .NET Framework, which is essentially a group of programming functions already made for programmers to execute important and common tasks. In addition, the .NET Framework also includes elements that a programmer utilises to design whatever software they are working on.
The importance of the framework cannot be understated, with Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer saying in 2000 that “the breakthroughs we’re talking about here include changes to the programming model, to the user interface, to the application integration model, the file system, new XML schema…”.
The goal of the framework was to develop a new system that offers software programs as a web service. The .NET Framework is a somewhat unique environment in that it allows developers to develop, deploy and execute many web services, regardless of the platform being used, mainly because it supports such a vast array of programming languages, including Visual Basic and Python.
Microsoft began developing the .NET Framework at the tail end of the 90s, and it was originally referred to as Next Generation Windows Services (NGWS). The framework made itself known publicly in 2000 when it was released as a beta version known as .NET 1.0.
In 2002 version 1.0 was released in Windows XP in the Tablet and Media Center Editions, and it has seen strong and regular development since then. Version 1.1 was released 14 months later in April 2003 with Windows Server 2003, while version 3.0 was released in 2006 as part of Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. Versions 3.5 and 4.0 were released in 2007 and 2010 respectively, within Windows 7, while the consumer preview of .NET version 4.5 was released in February 2012 with the consumer preview of Windows 8.
Aside from being default programs in the desktop versions of Windows, there are also two versions of the .NET Framework for mobile or embedded device use. One of these is the .NET Compact Framework, which runs on Windows CE platforms including the now-defunct Windows Mobile platform for smartphones – which has now been succeeded by Windows Phone. The second is the .NET Micro Framework, for use on devices that have little hardware resources such as RAM.
Essentially, the .NET Framework was created to solve the problem of software development being too complicated and time consuming. With retrospect, we can see that it was the development of such tools, with program functions already built in, that has opened the doors for the level of development we now take for granted, such as relatively simple development of apps for smartphones.