The Microsoft .NET Framework is a software framework that can be installed on computers running Microsoft Windows operating systems. It includes a large library of coded solutions to prevent common programming problems and a virtual machine that manages the execution of programs written specifically for the framework. The .NET Framework is a key Microsoft offering and is intended to be used by most new applications created for the Windows platform.
The framework’s Base Class Library provides a large range of features including user interface, data and data access, database connectivity, cryptography, web application development, numeric algorithms, and network communications. The class library is used by programmers, who combine it with their own code to produce applications.
Programs written for the .NET Framework execute in a software environment that manages the program’s runtime requirements. Also part of the .NET Framework, this runtime environment is known as the Common Language Runtime (CLR). The CLR provides the appearance of an application virtual machine so that programmers need not consider the capabilities of the specific CPU that will execute the program. The CLR also provides other important services such as security, memory management, and exception handling. The class library and the CLR together constitute the .NET Framework.
(source: Wikipedia )