In the SSL/CW list of top IT skills, .net is number 13.
What is it?
Microsoft .net has been described as Microsoft's development and deployment platform for the next decade. The .net framework will be used for building and running all kinds of software, particularly web-based applications and web services.
Although .net is still largely built on Microsoft's proprietary technology, it also uses platform-independent protocols such as XML, Soap and HTTP.
Where did it originate?
Microsoft .net has been traced back to Com+ Runtime, an abortive project that got lost in the labyrinth of Microsoft's component and object proposals and announcements.
In the summer of 2000, .net was finally announced and opened up for 18 months of public testing and debate. Version 1.0 was released in January 2002 and Version 1.1 came out with Visual Studio 2003.
What is it for?
There are two parts to the .net framework: the Common Language Runtime (CLR) and the Framework Class Library (FCL).
The CLR is much more than a runtime environment, as it includes many services for developers. As well as managing the execution of user code and just-in-time compilation, it provides memory management, exception management and debugging. It also provides a common set of APIs across all supported programming languages.
What makes it special?
The .net framework allows programmers to choose whatever language suits them best and about 20 languages are supported. Different languages can be used within a single application. Non-Microsoft languages include Fortran, Pascal, Perl, Python, Cobol, RPG and Smalltalk.
Microsoft .net also encourages code reuse, minimising the amount developers have to write. Base classes provide standard functionality such as input/output, string manipulation, security management, network communications, thread management, text management and user interface design features.
How difficult is it to master?
Microsoft's goal for .net is to make life easier for developers, although users of Microsoft's development tools are finding differences as they move to .net versions.
Where is it used?
Microsoft says there are more than one million .net developers worldwide, and more than 750 user groups. User organisations include Autodesk, Credit Suisse First Boston and Xerox.
What makes it hot?
According to the SSL/CW survey, demand for .net remained unchanged between 2002 and 2003, which sounds unimpressive except that all other top 25 skills except C# declined over this period, many by 50% to 60%.
What systems does it run on?
Microsoft's platforms including Pocket PC 2000 and Windows CE. There are various projects to port it to other systems such as Linux, DotGnu's Portable.net, and the Mono project started by the Ximian corporation, now owned by Novell.
What is coming up?
The Whidbey and Orcas releases of Visual Studio .net in 2004 and 2005.