In context: The .NET Framework technology has been part of the Windows platform since the NT 4.0/XP era, providing developers with an integrated environment (class library, language interoperability, runtime/execution engine) to write Windows-specific applications easily. The environment has been now replaced by .NET (Core), which is a cross-platform technology supporting all the major desktop and mobile operating systems available today.
A few months after releasing .NET 7, Microsoft is already working on the next version of its open-source, managed framework for software and app development. .NET 8 will be finalized at the end of 2023, so there’s still plenty of time for developers to adapt and digest all the changes the company is working on right now. Nevertheless, a first preview of the new platform is already available for early adopters and experienced .NET aficionados.
While announcing the .NET 8 Preview 1, Microsoft Principal Program Manager Jeremy Likness highlighted the remarkable results achieved in November 2022 with the release of .NET 7. The Foss (Free Open Source Software) rewrite of the original .NET Framework is now a unified platform that can provide native support for the ARM64 instruction set (i.e., mobile devices) and enhanced support on Linux. Furthermore, the .NET MAUI (Multi-platform App UI) SDK can help build cross-platform mobile and desktop applications from the same codebase.
The .NET 7 release was the result of a collaboration between the .NET team and a community of over 10,000 members providing over 28,000 contributions, Likness said. For .NET 8, Microsoft’s focus is on letting developers get their apps to the cloud quickly, making managing full end-to-end experience (from local development to integration and deployment) and implementing microservice architectures easier.
The first preview of .NET 8 is already bringing some interesting and remarkable changes to the .NET platform, with an extended NativeAOT feature support. Ahead-of-Time (AOT) compilation was first introduced in .NET 7, and it can have a significant impact on the performance of .NET applications with reduced memory footprint and improved startup time.
The .NET 8 release will also improve support for container images, updating the default Linux distro to Debian 12 and giving developers the chance to run images with non-root users. Full root access settings are often kept in production, Microsoft explained, but they aren’t always the best approach. .NET 8 will also improve JSON support, will provide new types in core libraries, and will be “buildable” on Linux directly from the dotnet/dotnet repository.
Likness said that .NET 8 Preview 1 is a testament to “the power of collaboration” between a diverse team of engineers at Microsoft and a “highly engaged open-source community.” Hard work and community dedication are bringing new features and improvements in .NET 8, and Microsoft is clearly grateful for all this (free) work the company can integrate into its development platform.