Microsoft introduced the .NET Framework in 2000 as a new approach to software development. The .NET Framework borrowed ideas from the best practices in the software industry as well as brought new ideas to the table in an effort to meet developer needs and requests.
Virtually all programming languages manage data at some point. The primary reason that communication between applications created using C++, Visual Basic, and other languages was difficult was because each language stored data being managed in a unique set of data types.
For example, an integer in one language may not represent an integer in another language. Data needed to be converted to common data types to communicate between languages.
The .NET Framework introduced a common set of data types (the Common Type System) that is used by all .NET-compliant languages (C++, Visual Basic, C#, etc). Thus all languages can easily intercommunicate. Code written by using the .NET Framework is compiled instead of interpreted resulting in much better performance than Java and competing technologies.
Microsoft took the Web development industry by storm with their .NET upgrade to ASP. ASP.NET put a new face on Web development through a compiled code architecture and improved state management and it provides access to the full functionality of the .NET Framework. ASP.NET is built around XML, supports the latest Web development standards, and allows for the creation of advanced Web Services.
The .NET Framework also provides improved data access and database integration through ADO.NET.
There are many more features and benefits of the .NET Framework than those mentioned here. The .NET Framework has become the leading software development environment available.