Sunday, May 6, 2012

Why was .NET called .NET?

Microsoft started development on the .NET Framework in the late 1990s, originally under the name of "Next Generation Windows Services" (NGWS).

So why did Microsoft choose the name .NET?

This is a bit of mystery, but the below answers are the best I've come across so far...

1) .NET enabled Microsoft's marketing people to emphasise the "Network"-ing aspect of its technologies, and was also a reaction to the marketing blitz by Sun Microsystems at the time, whose theme was "The network is the computer". The term "Dot Com" was synonymous with the Internet at the time, and "Dot Net" was a play on that term.
I don't think it is a bad name at all, the problem was that Microsoft initially named so many products with the ".NET" nomenclature like ".NET My Services" and ".NET Enterprise Servers", where the latter had nothing to do with the Internet. It caused so much confusion. Only later did Microsoft correct itself by limiting the .NET name to technologies related to the managed software framework.
- Stanley Siu
2) I was a dev at Microsoft at the time, and I have no idea whose ass the name .NET was pulled from. Anyone I talked to thought it was a lousy name for all the reasons already enumerated. At least it's pronounceable, unlike NGWS.
- George V. Reilly
3) The early marketing thrust of .NET was web services. .NET was supposed to make it easy both to write and consume web services. In particular, it was supposed to make it easier to call the web services that Microsoft was going to provide, and that everyone would then use: the ".NET My Services".
Of course, that fell apart very quickly, but the name remained. It was at least better than "COM++" or "ActiveXX".
- John Saunders

4) I was Summer intern at Microsoft in 2001 and back then the interns went to Bill Gates's house for a bbq near the end of the Summer. One of the interns asked "what other names did you think of before coming up with .NET?"

To the best of my memory, Bill's answer was something like:
"I didn't actually like the name .NET.  It makes people wonder if we are finally just starting to learn about the Internet.  Sadly, the other proposed name was even worse. Our mission statement at the time was 'work Anywhere, Anytime, on Any device,' so the proposal was AAAWare."
- leelin

Related Anecdote - the naming of Microsoft's C# programming language

In January 1999, Anders Hejlsberg formed a team to build a new language at the time called Cool, which stood for "C-like Object Oriented Language". Microsoft had considered keeping the name "Cool" as the final name of the language, but chose not to do so for trademark reasons, and came up with C# instead. Source :

So instead of being a C#.NET developer, you might have been known as a Cool AAAWare developer!

StackOverflow mods

Until this blog post was published, a Q&A on this topic was available here on StackOverflow, which is still the top Google result for: why was .net called .net.

The question was deemed to be offtopic for StackOverflow, and was recently deleted, even though it had been visible (as 'Closed') for about three years or so. Just before it was deleted, I had edited the accepted answer (by Stanley Siu) to make some grammatical corrections. Then, briefly after my edit was accepted by a moderator, the whole question was deleted. So I thought it would be worthy of this brief blog post here, in case someone else wants to find out the answer, as I did ;-).

UPDATE (7-May-2012): somehow (maybe due to a bit of attention from this post?), the original question on StackOverflow has been un-deleted and is once again available at its original location here. Thanks SO moderators!

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  1. Can't throw enough crap at SO moderators. The best, most interesting and informative questions have been closed as off topic by those a--holes.

    1. I gess they got net because you know how they call fishes to the users or something like that and then the net is what catches the fishes, like if saying the fish are the people and there is a net which is universal and trapps everyone who is using this signal system which can connect everyone in one net. I really don't know how to explain but I tried.

  2. Amen. Stack overflow has jumped the shark.

  3. I have asked several question on stackoverflow. The wtf's just keep coming. Most questions have been closed, comments get removed, I get ridiculed, and most important of all: The decision if questions are interesting or not, are made by moderators. That is weird, because who are they to decide that? If the question is not interesting to anyone, I would be able to note this because of no answers. No need to close it.


    Glad to hear I am not the only one, though. My sanity is restored.

  4. Replies
    1. Awesome - I think my post may have helped to somehow 'un-delete' the post on StackOverflow!

  5. people get points for closing the question that is why they are in rush do it without thinking for a bit

  6. i had thought it was renamed or it came from Windows DNA...

  7. Because keeping track of all its version it´s Not an Easy Task - Period - Ooops there´s the first bug ( and it never get corrected )

  8. Great comment by neilk via HN ...

    I worked at a company that was a sometime-partner of Microsoft in its efforts to get other languages running on the CLR.

    You have to understand that Microsoft had spent most of the 90s being clueless about the internet. Then actively trying to kill it. But by 2001, their strategy was to embrace and extend internet protocols and technologies so they would be forever tied to Microsoft.

    My impression was that .NET was a marketing term for a number of unrelated technologies that all served this overarching goal, that all came out roughly around 2001. They were saying to big corporations, that your choice wasn't Microsoft versus the internet, Microsoft WAS the internet. Only better.

    C# and the CLR were there to counter Java and the JVM.

    Their concept of Web Services was to make web technologies a mere transport layer for an RPC protocol called SOAP, which you would build with Microsoft IDEs.

    Hailstorm and Passport were an attempt to make Microsoft the centralized broker for all sensitive information on the internet. Think Facebook Connect, only imagine it was more corporate and business focused, and knew your credit card number.

    Anyway, Hailstorm/Passport and Web Services are dead, but The ".NET Framework" lives on in the CLR and C#, which were actually rather good even apart from Microsoft's strategizing.

  9. Great comment by cek via HN ...

    I worked on COM at Microsoft. We had a project to add managed run-time capabilities to COM. This was ~'96.

    Internally we thought of the Component Object Model that shipped as part of OLE as "COM version 1". The version that supported distributed capabilities (aka DCOM) as "COM version 2".

    When we started working on adding managed runtime support we started talking about "COM 3". But that talk stopped quickly when I tried to create a directory named COM3 for some specs.

    Creating the directory wasn't a problem. But putting anything in it or deleting was.

    We quickly settled on the name "COR" for Component Object Runtime instead.

    We actually released the COR at the '96 (I think) PDC as an alpha. But it never actually shipped because .NET won the internal battle (full IL based managed runtime to replace COM vs. incrementally adding garbage collection and other managed capabilites to COM ala Objective-C).

    Later on, as the MS Transaction Server group was merged with the COM team, the name COM+ was invented to cover "DCOM + Transaction Server + MSMQ". This led to the fabled Project42 which I have chosen to forget.

  10. the word 'dot net' created one misconception in the most people's mind - its related to internet and any application using the framework can be used on internet ( even windows form application). And the most people includes my ex-boss. After completing the project - he said - its developed on dotnet - it should work seamlessely on internet without extra work (i mean wcf or webservices).

  11. I don't think anyone would have thought about this, this according to me is an interesting question which shouldn't be erased from stackoverflow. You are quite true, lot of mystery is there in this answer. Still I think need to search more on this.

  12. I liked the Bill Gates story, true or not.

    The name "Interdev" in the 90s was cooler. A more logical name for its successor would have been ".DEV", so the dot would still indicate internet integration, followed with "DEV" is clearly still a development environment. That might have caused confusion that there was no master domain of that name, but less confusing than with the existent .net domain. A domain then wouldn't have been a bad idea... now that we have .biz and everything else.

    (almost 2 years since the initial thread ... better never than late?)

  13. Bill wanted to catch everyone in his new framework bandwagon so he named Dat(.) Net!

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