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No, Virginia, .NET Isn't a 'Programming Language'

The struggle continues. I was just reading an eWeek article about programming languages, and why some are less secure than others. This being eWeek, the article was aimed more at a general audience than a developer audience, so some allowances need to be made. But not allowances that are simply wrong, and by an alleged expert.

The article referenced a report by application security firm Veracode. Based on what I read, I'm not sure I'd trust Veracode at all. It has this accurate quote: "Languages such as C/C++ are not type safe languages," explained Veracode Vice President of Research Chris Eng. This is, of course, true.

But then came an error that startled me. Here's the quote:

"In C/C++, the programmer has to keep track of the type and space with no help from the language or compiler, allowing flaws to creep into the software," Eng said. "Languages such as .Net are type safe, so you will see a much lower occurrence of buffer overflow flaws."

"Languages such as .Net are type safe" -- since when did .NET become a language? .NET, as you know and I know -- and Veracode certainly should know -- is a framework, not a language. I don't know if Eng was simplifying it for a reading audience that may not understand the distinction between a framework and a language or not, or if he simply doesn't know the difference.

For the record, I have no problem simplifying complex ideas -- it's something we do here all the time at Visual Studio Magazine, and is very helpful. But simplification is ruined if mistakes are introduced in the process.

If, on the other hand, Eng doesn't know the difference, well, I don't know what to say. I would also hope that eWeek's editors would catch an error as blatant as this, in an article about programming languages. But I'm more shocked at Eng, since he's allegedly an expert.

So, to review: Microsoft's .NET Framework is a platform for building software. It is not a language itself. The primary (but not only) languages developers use to build software on the .NET Framework are C# and Visual Basic. The main tool used by .NET developers is Visual Studio, known as an Integrated Development Environment (IDE).

I'm glad we got that straightened out. I feel much better now.

Posted by Keith Ward on 04/12/2013

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