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(1) (.NETwork) A top-level Internet domain used by carriers, ISPs and other communications-oriented organizations. See Internet domain name.
(2) (.NET) A comprehensive software development platform from Microsoft that was introduced in 2000 as the company's next generation programming environment. Pronounced "dot-net," and widely known as the ".NET Framework," it was designed to compete with the Java J2EE platform.
.NET and CLI
The European Computer Manufacturers Association (ECMA) has standardized .NET as the Common Language Infrastructure (CLI). ECMA also standardized the C# programming language, designed by Microsoft to be the flagship .NET language. Depending on the class libraries used, the output of .NET and CLI compilers may be identical or not.
Web Services and Component Software
Microsoft's .NET supports SOAP-based Web services and Microsoft's next generation component software, expected at a later date. In the interim, .NET supports Microsoft's COM component software model. Version 2.0 of .NET, introduced in 2005, incorporates the WinFX API, which is the programming interface included in Windows Vista.
The Heart of .NET/CLI
The heart of .NET/CLI is a cross platform language system. Similar to Java because it uses an intermediate bytecode language that can be executed on any hardware platform that has a runtime engine, it is also unlike Java, as it provides support for multiple programming languages.
(NETwork) Any term with a "net" prefix either means network or Internet. For example, a net address can mean a network address or an Internet address, depending on the context of the dialog. "Net" with a capital "N" generally refers to the Internet; for example, "the Net" is "the Internet." See also .NET.
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