Difference Between .NET and C# (With Table)

Difference Between .NET and C# (With Table)

Understanding the differences between various programming technologies is crucial for making informed decisions in software development. Two commonly confused terms in the Microsoft ecosystem are .NET and C#. While both are integral components of Microsoft’s development platform, they serve distinct roles and have unique characteristics.

.NET: The Framework

What is .NET?

.NET, pronounced as “dot net,” is a comprehensive software development platform developed by Microsoft. It serves as an umbrella for various technologies and tools that facilitate the creation of applications for many platforms, including Windows, Linux, macOS, and more.

The .NET Ecosystem

The .NET ecosystem encompasses a wide range of components and technologies, such as:

  • Common Language Runtime (CLR): The CLR is a crucial part of .NET that manages memory, executes code, and provides various services for running applications. It ensures interoperability between different languages within the .NET framework.
  • Class Libraries: .NET includes a vast collection of reusable classes known as the Base Class Library (BCL), which provides essential functionality for application development. These libraries cover various tasks, from file I/O to database access.
  • ASP.NET: This framework for building web applications and services using .NET. ASP.NET supports various web technologies and is widely used for creating dynamic, data-driven web applications.
  • Entity Framework: Entity Framework is an Object-Relational Mapping (ORM) framework that simplifies database access in .NET applications. It allows developers to work with databases using object-oriented concepts.
  • Xamarin: Xamarin is a cross-platform development framework within the .NET ecosystem that allows developers to create mobile applications for Android and iOS using C# and .NET.
  • ASP.NET Core: ASP.NET Core is a modern, cross-platform framework for building web applications. It is a significant advancement over traditional ASP.NET and is designed for high-performance, scalable web applications.

C#: The Programming Language

C#, pronounced as “C-sharp,” is a statically typed, object-oriented programming language developed by Microsoft. It is one of the primary languages used within the .NET ecosystem. C# was created by Anders Hejlsberg and first released in 2000.

C#: The Language

C# Syntax

Several key features characterize C# syntax:

  • Strongly Typed: C# is a strongly typed language, meaning that variables must have a declared type, and type safety is enforced by the compiler.
  • Object-Oriented: C# follows an object-oriented programming (OOP) paradigm, allowing developers to create and use classes, objects, and inheritance to model real-world entities.
  • Modern Language Features: C# includes features like lambdas, LINQ (Language-Integrated Query), and async/await for writing asynchronous code.
  • Garbage Collection: C# includes automatic memory management through a garbage collector, relieving developers from manual memory management concerns.
  • Platform Independence: While C# is closely associated with Windows development, it can also create cross-platform applications, thanks to .NET Core and its successor, .NET 5+ (now called .NET).

C# and .NET Compatibility

One common source of confusion is understanding the relationship between C# and .NET. C# is a language that runs on the .NET platform, but it is not the only language supported by .NET. .NET also supports other languages, such as F#, VB.NET, and more. Therefore, C# is just one of the many options for developing applications within the .NET ecosystem.

C# Code Example

Here is a simple C# code snippet to illustrate the language’s syntax:

csharpCopy code

using System; class Program { static void Main() { Console.WriteLine("Hello, C#!"); } }

Key Differences

Now that we have a clear understanding of both .NET and C#, let’s delve into the key differences between them:

Role and Scope

  • .NET: .NET is a development platform or framework that provides a broad set of tools, libraries, and services for building various applications, including desktop, web, mobile, and cloud applications. It is not limited to a specific programming language and supports multiple languages.
  • C#: C# is a programming language in the .NET ecosystem. It is a specific language designed for writing code on the .NET platform. C# is primarily used for application development and part of the broader .NET framework.

Language vs. Framework

  • .NET: .NET is a framework that includes runtime environments, libraries, and tools for building applications. It encompasses various programming languages, including C#, VB.NET, and F#. .NET provides a runtime environment (CLR) that executes code in these languages.
  • C#: C# is a programming language with syntax, rules, and features. It is one of the languages that can be used within the .NET framework. C# code is compiled into Common Intermediate Language (CIL), executed by the CLR in the .NET framework.


  • .NET: .NET was first introduced by Microsoft in the early 2000s as a framework for building Windows applications. Over the years, it has evolved into a cross-platform framework supporting various operating systems, cloud platforms, and devices.
  • C#: C# was also introduced by Microsoft around the same time as .NET. Anders Hejlsberg, the creator of C#, aimed to develop a language that combined the best features of C++ and Java while addressing some of their shortcomings.

Language Independence

  • .NET: .NET is not tied to a specific programming language. Developers can use multiple languages, including C#, F#, VB.NET, and more, to build applications that target the .NET platform. This language independence is a key feature of .NET.
  • C#: C# is a single programming language within the .NET ecosystem. While it is widely used and popular, it is just one of the language choices available to developers working with .NET.

Cross-Platform Development

  • .NET: .NET has embraced cross-platform development in recent years. With the introduction of .NET Core (now .NET 5+), developers can create applications that run on Windows, Linux, and macOS. This expansion has made .NET more versatile and accessible across different operating systems.
  • C#: C# code can also be used for cross-platform development when targeting .NET Core or the latest .NET platform. However, it’s essential to understand that the cross-platform capabilities are a feature of the .NET framework, not the C# language itself.


  • .NET: .NET is a versatile framework that supports a wide range of application types, including desktop applications (using technologies like Windows Presentation Foundation), web applications (using ASP.NET), mobile apps (using Xamarin), and cloud services (using Azure functions, for example).
  • C#: C# is primarily used for application development, making it a versatile language for building various types of applications. However, its versatility largely depends on the capabilities and libraries provided by the .NET framework.

Compatibility and Interoperability

  • .NET: .NET emphasizes interoperability and allows developers to leverage code written in different languages. This interoperability is possible because all .NET languages compile to a common intermediate language (CIL), which the CLR executes. C# code can call functions written in other .NET languages, enhancing code reuse and integration.
  • C#: C# is specifically designed to work seamlessly with the .NET framework. While it’s possible to interoperate with other .NET languages, C# developers interact primarily with C# libraries and components.

Popularity and Community Support

  • .NET: .NET has a substantial and active developer community. It enjoys popularity in enterprise and open-source development, with a rich ecosystem of libraries and tools. Microsoft’s commitment to open-sourcing various .NET components has further contributed to its adoption.
  • C#: C# is one of the most popular programming languages worldwide, consistently ranking among the top languages in various programming indices. Its widespread use in developing Windows applications, web applications, games, and more has contributed to its strong developer community.


  • .NET: The .NET framework has evolved significantly, transitioning from the traditional .NET Framework to .NET Core (now .NET 5+). This evolution has focused on improving performance, enabling cross-platform development, and providing a more modular and modern development experience.
  • C#: C# has also evolved in tandem with the .NET framework. New language features have been introduced, such as pattern matching and enhanced support for asynchronous programming, to improve developer productivity and code quality.


  • .NET: .NET has changed licensing models. While the core .NET framework is open source and available under the MIT license, some components and tools, such as Visual Studio, may have different licensing terms. Reviewing the licensing terms for specific .NET components and tools is essential.
  • C#: C# is not subject to licensing fees, as it is a programming language. However, licensing terms for those tools may apply when using C# with development tools like Visual Studio.


  • .NET: .NET strongly emphasizes performance, especially with the introduction of .NET Core and .NET 5+. These framework versions have shown significant performance and resource efficiency improvements, making .NET a competitive choice for high-performance applications.
  • C#: C# code’s performance is closely tied to the runtime environment provided by .NET. Therefore, improvements in the .NET runtime, such as Just-In-Time (JIT) compilation optimizations, directly impact the performance of C# applications.


  • .NET: .NET offers a comprehensive set of development tools, including Visual Studio, Visual Studio Code, and the cross-platform .NET CLI (Command-Line Interface). These tools facilitate coding, debugging, testing, and deployment of .NET applications.
  • C#: C# development primarily relies on these same tools, as C# is a language within the .NET ecosystem. Therefore, developers working with C# benefit from the extensive tooling provided by the .NET platform.

Community and Resources

  • .NET: The .NET community provides many resources, including documentation, tutorials, forums, and libraries. The official .NET website, GitHub repositories, and Stack Overflow are valuable sources of information and support for .NET developers.
  • C#: C# developers can tap into the same .NET community and resources when seeking assistance, learning, or sharing knowledge related to C# programming.

Table: Summary of Differences

For a quick reference, here’s a summary of the key differences between .NET and C#:

Role and ScopeDevelopment Platform/FrameworkProgramming Language
Language IndependenceSupports Multiple Languages (C#, F#, VB.NET, etc.)Single Language within .NET Ecosystem
Cross-Platform DevelopmentYes (with .NET Core and later versions)Yes (when targeting .NET Core or later)
VersatilitySupports Various Application Types (Desktop, Web, Mobile, Cloud)Primarily Used for Application Development
Compatibility and InteroperabilityEmphasizes InteroperabilityDesigned to Work Seamlessly with .NET
Popularity and Community SupportActive Developer CommunityOne of the Most Popular Programming Languages
EvolutionTransitioned from .NET Framework to .NET Core and BeyondEvolving Language Features and Improvements
LicensingCore .NET Framework Open Source (MIT License)Licensing Depends on Tools and Components
PerformanceEmphasis on Performance ImprovementsPerformance Tied to .NET Runtime
ToolingComprehensive Development Tools (Visual Studio, Visual Studio Code, .NET CLI)Utilizes .NET Development Tools
Community and ResourcesAbundant Resources and SupportAccess to .NET Community and Resources


In the world of software development, .NET and C# are not interchangeable terms but complementary components of Microsoft’s technology stack. .NET serves as a versatile development platform that accommodates various programming languages. In contrast, C# is a powerful language tailored for writing code within the .NET ecosystem.

Understanding the distinctions between .NET and C# is essential for developers and organizations that effectively leverage Microsoft’s tools and technologies. Whether you’re building cross-platform applications with .NET or crafting efficient code with C#, these differences will influence your development journey and help you make informed decisions.

dot 1
One request?

I’ve put so much effort writing this blog post to provide value to you. It’ll be very helpful for me, if you consider sharing it on social media or with your friends/family. SHARING IS ♥️

Avatar of Nidhi


Hi! I'm Nidhi.

Here at the EHL, it's all about delicious, easy recipes for casual entertaining. So come and join me at the beach, relax and enjoy the food.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *