The .NET Framework (pronounced as “dot net”) is a software framework developed by Microsoft that runs primarily on Microsoft Windows. It includes a large class library called Framework Class Library (FCL) and provides language interoperability (each language can use code written in other languages) across several programming languages. Programs written for .NET Framework execute in a software environment (in contrast to a hardware environment) named the Common Language Runtime (CLR). The CLR is an application virtual machine that provides services such as security, memory management, and exception handling. As such, computer code written using .NET Framework is called “managed code“. FCL and CLR together constitute the .NET Framework.
FCL provides the user interface, data access, database connectivity, cryptography, web application development, numeric algorithms, and network communications. Programmers produce software by combining their source code with .NET Framework and other libraries. The framework is intended to be used by most new applications created for the Windows platform. Microsoft also produces an integrated development environment for .NET software called Visual Studio.
.NET Framework began as proprietary software, although the firm worked to standardize the software stack almost immediately, even before its first release. Despite the standardization efforts, developers, mainly those in the free and open-source software communities, expressed their unease with the selected terms and the prospects of any free and open-source implementation, especially regarding software patents. Since then, Microsoft has changed .NET development to more closely follow a contemporary model of a community-developed software project, including issuing an update to its patent promising to address the concerns.