What is .NET And What’s The Difference Between .NET Framework, .NET Core, & Xamarin?

Answering the question, “what is .NET” is a bit more complicated than simply a one line definition because .NET is a developer platform made up of multiple elements. For one thing, the .NET platform includes sets of tools, such as Visual Studio, OmniSharp, JetBrains Rider, .NET Core CLI, and Ionide. For another, .NET includes multiple programming languages. And finally, .NET has various sets of ready-to-use libraries to save time.

To begin with, .NET is an open source, cross-platform, programming language developed and supported by Microsoft. Originally designed for the creation of Windows applications, it has become so much more. Using three different programming languages, F#, Visual Basic, and the sixth most popular programming language in the world, C#, you can create web, mobile, and desktop apps, 2D and 3D games, and just about anything else you can think of. And, one of the nice things about .NET is that it is here to stay.


.NET Programming Languages.

Microsoft has developed eleven programming languages. They include C#, VB, C++, J#, F#, JScript, Windows PowerShell, IronRuby, IronPython, Comega, and ASML(Abstract State Machine Language).

Within this group of eleven, there are three primary Microsoft languages that can do everything you need in .NET Core and .NET Framework; C#, F#, and Visual Basic. 


Pronounced, “C sharp,” is an object-oriented and type-safe ( only allows operations that are validated by the data type to occur) programming language. It fits within the C family of languages, so anyone familiar with C or C++, as well as Java, or JavaSCript, will be familiar with it.

Visual Basic

VB.Net is also an object-oriented programming language but has the added feature of running well on Linux and Mac OSX.


Pronounced, “F sharp,” is a, open-source, cross platform, and functional programming language. Simply stated, Functional programming focuses more on results than process, creating a simple, maintainable, and powerful code.

Various Implementations of


Why Multiple Implementations

.NET was originally thought of as a programming language that only worked on Windows computers. That is not the case. With .NET Core, and updates to the .NET Framework, both support server-side applications and share many of the same components and coding formats. 

Along with C#, Microsoft supports the .NET libraries and runtimes for C#. If you’re new to C# development and the Microsoft ecosystem, then the distinctions between Microsoft’s .NET Framework, .NET Core, and Xamarin can be confusing.

Whether you work with one or the other, it is important to understand the difference between all three.




The Microsoft C# Ecosystem

C# is a strongly-typed, object oriented language that borrows heavily from C syntax and Java’s features. At first, the language was seen as an upgrade of C and C++. It offered better support for class libraries and gave Microsoft greater control over the syntax for their object-oriented programs. Microsoft first announced C# in 2000.

At the same time, Microsoft was already developing the .NET project to create a common runtime and class library for Windows programs. Significantly, .NET has become the leading implementation of the C# language. However, .NET is technically language-neutral. In fact, it includes Common Language Infrastructure that allows .NET to expand to support other languages. Still, .NET and C# are very closely tied. Very likely, if you’re working in a Microsoft dev shop, you’re writing .NET applications in C#.

No matter the programming language, the code gets compiled and evaluated in a software context known as the Common Language Runtime (CLR). The CLR is the main advantage of the .NET ecosystem. In addition, the .NET ecosystem includes a standard Framework Class Library (FCL) for built-in common functions.

Moreover, there are multiple implementations of the .NET runtime and libraries. Overall, these various implementations make sense, depending on the context in which your application will deploy. At this time, .NET Framework, .NET Core, and Xamarin are the current options for using the Microsoft CLR and FCL.


1 – .NET Framework

The .NET Framework is the oldest implementation of the Common Language Runtime. In short, it is the Windows-only implementation of .NET that is the base for many existing applications. As a result, the .NET Framework has a host of tools and third-party libraries already in existence. Additionally, many existing .NET applications are already written on the .NET Framework.

Microsoft recommends using .NET Framework when your existing application already uses it or when you need access to .NET Framework-only third-party libraries. Furthermore, some features of .NET Framework itself are not available in .NET Core yet. For instance, some applications of ASP.NET, Visual Basic, and F# aren’t yet supported in .NET Core.


2 – .NET Core

.NET Core is the latest version of the CLR and the currently preferred option. It’s a slimming down of the .NET Framework with greater accessibility for various devices.

Whereas .NET Framework was Windows-only, .NET Core is cross-platform and can deploy applications on Mac or Linux. In addition, Microsoft Azure cloud infrastructure offers the most support for .NET Core applications. Because they’re lighter weight than .NET Framework applications, .NET Core is faster and more scalable. Indeed, .NET Core applications can deploy easily as microservices on Azure. They also deploy well inside containers like Docker.

If you’re starting a new project, you likely should use .NET Core. Even if you’re extending an existing .NET Framework app, you can add .NET Core gradually as you build new features.


3 – Xamarin

Xamarin is not technically a .NET option. Instead, it runs on top of Mono, an earlier cross-platform version of .NET that Microsoft built before deciding to go with .NET Core. Xamarin is a mobile-only implementation. If you’re planning to write a mobile app for Android or iOS, then Xamarin is how you deploy C#, Visual Basic, F#, etc on mobile platforms. In fact, Xamarin is your only option for those languages on mobile.

Choosing Between the .NET Options

From an architecture perspective, the .NET Framework ships with the Windows operating system. So, it’s already there for you to use in its entirety if you’re on a Windows machine. In contrast, .NET Core is a lightweight version of the CLR that ships along with the application and can work cross-platform. Similarly, Xamarin also ships alongside the application when running on mobile.

While there are scenarios where you might choose .NET Framework, .NET Core is undoubtedly the future if you want cross-platform support or applications that can run in containerized and/or microservice infrastructure.  

Intertech .NET consulting  covers everything Microsoft, even legacy technologies!
ASP.NET Consulting
Intertech’s expert consultants can guide your ASP.NET development using best practices and field tested expertise. Our experts can:

  • Architect an ASP.NET web application
  • Correctly setup Web Site and Web Application projects
  • Use the correct controls, navigation controls
  • Design and develop custom controls
  • Save time using proven third party controls
  • Create stunning User Interfaces and navigation
  • Optimize database connectivity
  • Increase performance thru Ajax and other user interface optimization techniques
  • Understand where you should be using Silverlight vs. ASP.NET
  • Integrate design using the Microsoft Expression Suite

ASP.NET MVC Consulting
Intertech delivers ASP.NET MVC consulting and solutions using field proven best practices. Our expert consultants can help you:

  • Architect, design, and develop a solution built on ASP.NET MVC
  • Understand and use the best practices for the Model-View-Controller pattern
  • Create controllers and actions for workflow management
  • Correctly use methods and results
  • Design and construct custom classes
  • Determine if the Entity Framework data model
  • Troubleshoot your ASP.NET MVC application
  • Optimize ASP.NET MVC performance

BizTalk Consulting
Intertech delivers expert BizTalk consulting. Our seasoned BizTalk consultants can help you:

  • Understand the high-level capabilities core elements of BizTalk including schemas, maps, orchestrations, pipelines, and adapters
  • Install and configure BizTalk using field proven best practices for performance, scalability, and security
  • Use schemas including XML schema definition and define best practices for schema versioning, validation, and testing
  • Use maps including advanced features like scripting, table looping, custom XSLT, and map validation, testing, and debugging
  • Leverage orchestrations and the Orchestration Designer and implement dehydration/rehydration, correlations, convoys, transactions, exception management, and debugging
  • Understand and use pipelines including stages, send/receive pipelines, pipeline components, and building custom pipelines and components
  • Use built-in, third party, and custom adapters including File, FTP, HTTP, MQ Series, MSMQ, SMTP, SOAP, and WCF
  • Use BizTalk with Windows Azure including using the AppFabric SDK
  • Profile Business Activity Monitory (BAM) with activities and views
  • Use the Tracking Profile Editor
  • Understand and use rule-based programming including rules, policies, and scenarios
  • Leverage and use an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) with BizTalk including using dynamic routing, dynamic transformation, and message validation
  • Target and remedy BizTalk performance issues

C# Consulting
Intertech’s experts can guide you on C#.NET development. Our seasoned consultants can:

  • Help you architect and design a scalable, leverage-able C#-based framework and application
  • Create WinForms using UI best practices
  • Create web-based applications with C# as the managed language
  • Leverage WPF, WCF, WF, and LINQ in C#
  • Create secure, robust web services
  • Integrate .NET applications with COM, Java, or legacy systems
  • Troubleshoot “random” issues in your C# applications
  • Use SQL Server, Oracle, DB2, as well as enterprise multi-terabyte database systems
  • Use Team Foundation Server for the SDLC platform
  • Target performance issues in C#

Entity Framework Consulting
Intertech delivers Microsoft Entity Framework consulting and solutions using Microsoft best practices for your data-oriented software applications. Our Entity Framework consulting can help you:

  • Architect, design, and develop a solution built using Entity Framework
  • Help identify specific needs and viability of Entity Framework in your solution
  • Design Code First and/or Data First solutions
  • Troubleshooting your Entity Framework application
  • Help in C#.NET coding best practices
  • Optimize Entity Framework application performance

VB.NET Consulting
Intertech delivers expert VB.NET consulting in our line-up of .NET consulting services. Our expert VB.NET consultants can build solutions or supplement your team. Our team can help you:

  • Architect a solid Object Oriented (OO) framework for your VB.NET application
  • Implement the solution using VB.NET
  • Correctly leverage WPF, WCF, WF, and LINQ in your solution
  • Build Windows-based applications
  • Use VB.NET as the managed language to create web-based ASP.NET solutions
  • Understand where and how to effectively use .NET type system, assemblies, and metadata
  • Efficiently access data using ADO.NET
  • Build web services using VB.NET
  • Troubleshoot your VB.NET application
  • Use field tested build-and-deploy in your VB.NET solution
  • Correctly setup your solution in Team Foundation Server (TFS)

WCF Consulting
Intertech’s expert WCF consultants:

  • Help you determine where WCF fits into your application architecture
  • Use WCF binding, WCF fault, WCF message, and WCF data contracts with field proven best practices
  • Upgrade to the latest version of WCF
  • Implement WCF security measures
  • Troubleshoot WCF performance issues

Workflow Consulting
Intertech’s expert team of consultants can deliver a solution using Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) using field proven best practices. Intertech’s consultants can:

  • Architect, design, and develop business processes workflows
  • Correctly design and use workflows and activities
  • Install, configure, and use the visual tools for workflow design
  • Create custom activities
  • Design state machine and sequential workflows
  • Optimize workflows for performance
  • Troubleshoot workflow issues

WPF Consulting
Intertech delivers experienced, field-proven consulting around Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). Our expert consultants:

  • Guide you thru the WPF programming model using best practices
  • Teach the WPF model with and without XAML
  • Create WPF custom user controls
  • Show you proven 3rd party WPF add-ons that save time and effort
  • Help you integrate Expression Blend with Visual Studio to create user interfaces
  • Create impressive, dynamic user interfaces

Xamarin Consulting
Intertech delivers Xamarin consulting and solutions using Microsoft best practices. Our Xamarin consulting team can help you:

  • Architect, design, and develop a solution built using Xamarin and Visual Studio
  • Help identify cross-platform needs and viability of Xamarin solution
  • Understand and use the best practices for the Model-View-ViewModel pattern
  • Build Windows-based applications
  • Design and construct custom classes
  • Troubleshooting your Xamarin application
  • Efficiently access data using ADO.NET
  • Help in C#.NET coding best practices
  • Troubleshoot your VB.NET application
  • Optimize Xamarin application performance
  • Help in deployment strategies for both quality assurance and appropriate market stores

.NET Architecture Consulting
Intertech’s expert architects can provide a series of architecture-related services to ensure a successful solution design. Intertech’s team can:

  • Architect applications, services, and components using field proven .NET best practices
  • Create your development environment architecture and staging environment from test to production
  • Understand and use the best practices for the Model-View-ViewModel pattern
  • Define an application blueprint that maximizes scalability, availability, and manageability and separates presentation, business, and data layers
  • Identify security policies for authentication and authorization
  • Create strategies backed by an architecture for exception management including runtime monitoring and configuration
  • Define a plan for deployment including physical environment architecture, location of application components, and distribution boundaries
  • Troubleshoot performance issues due to inefficient architecture

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