.NET Core vs .NET Framework: An In-depth Comparison

While the choice between .NET Core vs .NET Framework essentially depends upon the type of application to be built and the platform on which it is to be built, there are many factors that must be considered, which we have discussed in our blog, before choosing a framework for your next web development project.

With .NET being the umbrella term, Microsoft supports the two frameworks, including — .NET Core and .NET Framework. While the .NET Framework is the traditional and aging version, .NET Core has stepped in to address its limitations, thus aligning with technological advancements. But that nowhere means that .NET Framework is losing its fan base.

According to the StackOverflow 2020 survey, .NET and .NET Core are commonly used frameworks for software development, making it a safe bet for your business application endeavor.

Most commonly used frameworks in 2020 | .NET Core vs .NET Framework

The struggle to choose between .NET Core vs .NET Framework continues to persist in the tech industry. Whereas, 2021 is going to change it with the advent of .NET 5. We will get back to it, but before that, let’s understand the difference between .NET Core vs .NET Framework.

.NET Ecosystem

Microsoft’s .NET is a free, open-source developer’s platform for building server-side applications. With .NET, you can make use of multiple languages (C#, F#, or Visual Basic), libraries, and editors to build web, mobile, gaming, IoT, and desktop applications.

For building server-side applications, the .NET development framework has two supported platforms: .NET Framework, which has existed for a few years now, and .NET Core. However, the following figure shows three major components of the .NET ecosystem: .NET Core, .NET Framework, and Xamarin.

Xamarin is not part of the debate here. Choose Xamarin when you intend to build a mobile app (iOS, Android, or Windows Mobile app).

The entire .NET ecosystem | .NET Core vs .NET Framework

What is .NET Framework?

.NET Framework was the first software framework introduced by Microsoft, and it was built only for Windows. .NET Framework helps develop and run software applications. .NET Framework performance is ideal, and source code is readily available, but it does not support active contribution from the developer’s community.

What is .NET Core?

.NET Core is a newer version of the .NET domain that addresses the limitation of the .NET Framework. .NET Core is a cross-platform framework that can be run for Windows, macOS, and Linux. Moreover, it is open-source and accepts contributions from the developer’s community.

The good thing about the two frameworks is their ability to share codes and many components when requested. Yet, there are differences between .NET Core and .NET Framework that need to be analyzed before choosing a .NET development company for your next project.

.NET Core vs .NET Framework vs .NET Standard

Taking into account the .NET Ecosystem figure, let’s understand how .NET Standard came into the picture. Referring to the figure, you can see that while building an application of .NET Core, .NET Framework, or Xamarin, there are base libraries.

For instance, there are two projects, each in .NET Core and .NET framework. How will you share some common code/ libraries in both the projects present in .NET Framework?

Here .NET Standard comes into the picture.

.NET Standard is a library that, when needed, could be used across all .NET implementations, which implies that creating a library in .NET Standard allows you to share the same in .NET Framework and .NET Core.

.NET Core vs .NET Framework vs .NET Standard

.NET Core vs .NET Framework — Differences

Here are some parameters that draw the line between the two Microsoft frameworks.

1.) .NET Core vs .NET Framework — Compatibility

The best thing that makes .NET Core the number one in its league is its compatibility with various operating systems — Windows, Linux, and macOS. The .NET’s structure was fully re-architected to give birth to .NET Core to help businesses develop applications on all platforms.

When it comes to .NET web development services for enterprises, deploying .NET Core that supports primarily used platforms besides Windows, can be suitable. The .NET Core performance is quite impressive, and an added perk is its open-source attribute that makes it the most popular framework in the application development space.

.NET Core is the foundation of all future .NET platforms — Immo Landwerth, Principal Program Manager, Microsoft

On the other hand, the .NET Framework supports a restrictive model, which allows running websites, apps, and web services only on the Windows operating system. Within the cross-platform framework space, the .NET Framework is recommended only when an organization deploys the framework for a long time.

A note for organizations and the developers — Microsoft has parceled out the source code for WPF, Windows Forms, and WinUI.

.NET is open source, you can join the 60,000 developers and 3,700 companies already contributing to the .NET platform Microsoft

2.) .NET Core vs .NET Framework — Performance

When a performance-oriented and scalable system is the topmost priority, who wins the .NET Core Vs .NET Framework performance battle?

With .NET Core 3 ending and .NET Core 3.1 taking over, organizations have new features and enhancements to make their applications stand out. The .NET Core performance has shown better results as compared to its counterpart. But, minor performance regressions and startup performance issues have been reported with .NET Core 3.1 compared to .NET Framework 4.8.

The GitHub performance test conducted by developers draws the following inferences:

The .NET Core app uses 2 to 3x more CPU time when triggered, which is about 400-500ms more time. However, improvement with the render time is noticed.

The regression performance for .NET Core was slightly lower when moving from .NET Framework 4.8 to .NET Core 3.1. It was found that .NET Framework 4.8 performed 10-20% better than .NET Core 3.1. The reason being the overhead of the extra nop at the beginning of each method.

Here’s the .NET Core vs .NET Framework performance benchmark report:

.NET Framework performance benchmark report | .NET Core vs .NET Framework

3.) .NET Core vs .NET Framework — Deployment Model

One of the essential features available in .NET Core is its flexible deployment model. It means whenever the latest version of .NET Core gets launched; it can be instantly updated on one machine at a time, thereby getting uploaded in new directories without affecting the existing applications. Moreover, .NET Core can also be deployed for apps that need more isolation using the new app bundling tools integrated into it.

When it comes to the .NET Framework, the web application must be deployed only on the Internet Information Server. However, .NET Core’s advantage over .NET Framework lies in the fact that it can be hosted in more than one way, making it more flexible.

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IMG and its Successful Journey with Net Solutions

Net Solutions helped IMG, a global leader in sports, events, media, and fashion develop a web application that would automate the merchandise approval and licensing processes with vendors. IMG wanted a B2B web app that would be compatible with all the operating systems and devices.

We relied on .NET Core for developing a web application with SQL Server for the backend, and we worked on developing the front-end using JavaScript, JQuery, HTML, and CSS.

The result – IMG was able to roll out an internal application that helped its staff become more efficient with their vendors. This feature in turn brought transparency throughout the process of licensing and approvals.

Here’s the case study for a more in-depth insight:

Case Study on how Net Solutions helped IMG develop a .NET application  | .NET Core vs .NET Framework

4.) .NET Core vs .NET Framework — Focus on Devices

In today’s highly progressive digitized tech-friendly world, no matter what the business domain of an application is, at a certain point it becomes essential to build an app that can reach different markets and end-users, wrapped in the latest technology. And .NET Core aims to achieve this target – to develop apps in a multitude of domains, such as gaming, mobile, IoT, AI – with the introduction of the new .NET Core extension: .NET 5.

.NET 5 Ecosystem  | .NET Core vs .NET Framework

Microsoft has cleared its intentions that it has no plans to replace the formidable .NET Framework. Rather, they are planning to slower releases of the .NET framework to maintain its compatibility. On the other hand, .NET Core updates are released faster to allow side-by-side configuration.

The intentions of Microsoft to delve deep into AI or other emerging technologies were made clear when Microsoft announced its collaboration with SWIFT, the world leader in secure financial services.

So, if you are planning to go ahead with building an app that embraces the latest technologies, .NET Core is a perfect choice. When it comes to using free libraries, you can choose from millions of public and private packages on NuGet and MyGet. You can also integrate them into other apps by using the IDE or the CLI.

.NET Core vs .NET Framework — Which One to Choose?

“That’s best of both worlds,” Galloway said, “because if I’ve got a stable existing platform, I can opt in to new features, I can kind of light those up, and if I’m doing new development I can jump right into .NET Core, but if I have existing code I can say, ‘ooh, I would like to use these cool fast features or these new exciting features, I can pull those into my .NET Framework apps.’” – Jon Galloway, Senior Program Manager, .NET Team, Microsoft

Any organization that runs applications on the .NET Framework might not feel the urgency to migrate to .NET Core. But, for those who are entering the unchartered territory of mobile application development, creating web services, progressive web applications, and web applications, there is a choice to make. So, what should it be?

Prefer .NET Core in the following cases:

  • The project demands cross-platform integration
  • Your project focuses on building microservices
  • If docker containers are used
  • When your project relies heavily on the command line

And, prefer the .NET Framework in the following cases:

  • Your applications are already running on .NET Framework
  • The application uses technologies like WorkFlow, WebForms, or WCF
  • The application deploys third-party .NET libraries and NuGet packages
  • Your application is built to run on Windows alone

But wait! Would the differences even matter down the line? There is some bad news and some good news that Microsoft has shared with its community of developers and companies.

Note: .NET 5.0 has released, .NET Framework 4.8 will be the last official release of the .NET Framework in the series. The same goes for .NET Core 3.1. They are not planning to release an upgrade in the long run but will continue the support for the existing versions.

.NET 5.0 — The Next Step on the Microsoft Roadmap

.NET 5 (no “core”, no “framework”) takes the best from .NET Framework, .NET Core, and Xamarin Development models to create an all-in-one framework. It will be simpler to use and introduces a broad spectrum of capabilities to the web development service domain. Therefore, one can say that there would be no .NET Framework vs .NET Core battle in the coming times as the gap between the two will be bridged.

Is .NET Core Dead?

Following 3.1, .NET 5 is the next major release of .NET Core, can be called as .NET Core 5. Microsoft chose to name the new release to be .NET 5 and not .NET Core 4.0 for the following two reasons:

  • To avoid confusions with .NET Framework 4.x
  • The word ‘Core’ is dropped to put emphasis on the point that this is the main implementation of .NET going forward.

Moreover, .NET 5 does not replace the .NET Framework, and .NET 4.X is still supported. Considering these points, it can be inferred that .NET Core or .NET Framework is not dead at all, instead .NET 5 is an extension of the .NET 3x series.

The .NET 5 project is an important and exciting new direction for .NET. You will see .NET become simpler but also have broader and more expansive capability and utility Microsoft

Prefer .NET 5 in the following cases:

  • You have cross-platform needs.
  • You’re targeting microservices architecture.
  • You’re using Docker containers.
  • You need high-performance and scalable systems.
  • You need side-by-side .NET versions per application.


Choosing a .NET Framework for building applications is one important decision to take. Initially, with the default .NET Framework, there was not much choice to make. But, with the advent of .NET Core, application development has seen an upturn. Its open-source and cross-platform capability adds flexibility and shareability that helps in building robust applications.

However, the futuristic plans of Microsoft have a different story to tell. Well, with .NET 5, it is only .NET going forward, with no cognomens at all. So, with these three Microsoft frameworks available, it is time for you to decide which will suit your business requirements best.

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Akash Lomas

About the Author

Designation: Technical Architect
Forte: Extensive Experience in MS stack, coding, and enhancing process delivery
Likes: Spending time with his son
Dislikes: Segregated Silos that make collaboration difficult
Claim to Fame: Working towards it
Biggest Tech Blunder: Accidentally presented the wrong brief to the client only to realize that at the very end.
Wannabe: Pro Tennis player

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11:57 PM, Jan 27, 2020

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