.NET Core is yet another .NET framework implementation implementing .NET Standard 1 (production) and .NET Standard 2 (beta) while also extending the standard with .NET core specific API’s such as Console and Thread (which are not part of the .NET Standard).
The cool thing with .NET Core is that it is: 100% open-source, 100% cross-platform and very modular. This stands in contrast to .NET and Mono since these are very monolithic implementations and huge in size. The source is available under MIT on GitHub: https://github.com/dotnet/core
Since .NET Core is very crossplatform, one can write .NET applications for x86/ARM Windows and x86/ARM Linux – and since it is very modular, the framework does not occupy much space compared to the desktop implementations.
API’s are generally not available in the framework but needs to be downloaded from NuGet, e.g. EntityFramework, ASP.NET, and even some Reflection support are an “add-on”.
I measured the raw framework installation on my Win 10 x64 box to about 70MB, while the .NET 4.6 framework is roughly 2000MB in size, that is, 28 times larger! Deployment wise, .NET Core SDK supports deploying application + framework meaning that the target does not have to have the specific framework installed.
The SDK will automatically pull all the dependencies into the publish package, which includes all NuGet dlls + native assemblies where applicable (e.g. if using sqlite .NET core wrapper). One can also publish to a specific target, such as Linux-x86 or Linux-arm, which will produce a platform specific package with an elf executable that can be executed.
Referencing .NET assemblies which does not target .NET Standard or .NET Core is not possible in .NET Core 1.1 since the APIs are incompatible. .NET Core 2.0 will include a compatibility layer making it possible to reference assemblies targeting other frameworks – although this sounds awesome, I have not experimented with this feature yet.
.NET Core is without a doubt the future of .NET!