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Target Framework Names in .NET 5

Owner Immo Landwerth | GitHub Issue | Video Presentation

We'd like to drastically simplify the framework names (TFMs) developers must use in project files and NuGet packages. This includes merging the concept of .NET 5 and .NET Standard while still being able to use #if to use OS-specific APIs. This document explains the motivation and resulting developer experience.

.NET, as most technologies that are two decades old, has a lot of heritage, especially in product naming and editions: .NET Framework, .NET Compact Framework, Silverlight, .NET Micro Framework, .NET Portable Class Libraries, .NET for Windows Store, .NET Native, .NET Core, .NET Standard... and that doesn't even include what the Mono community built. While this evolution of .NET can be explained (and was properly motivated) it created a massive tax: the concept count. If you're new to .NET, where would you start? What is the latest stack? You may say, "of course that's .NET Core" but how would anyone know that by just looking at the names?

We've simplified the world with .NET Standard, in that class library authors don't have to think about all the different "boxes" that represent different implementations of .NET. It did that by unifying the API surface of the various .NET implementations. Ironically, this resulted in us having to add yet another box, namely .NET Standard.

To make the future saner, we must reduce the number of boxes. We don't want to make .NET less flexible, but we want to reduce nonsensical differences that purely resulted from us not being open source early enough. For example, Mono/Xamarin/Unity are based on a different set of runtimes and frameworks than the .NET Framework/Silverlight/UWP/.NET Core lineage. With .NET Standard, we have started to remove the differences in the API surface. With .NET 5, the goal is to converge these lineages onto a single product stack, thus unifying their implementations.

While we strive to provide an experience where you don't have to reason about the different kinds of .NET, we still don't want to fully abstract away the underlying OS, so you'll continue to be able to call OS specific APIs, be that via P/Invokes, WinRT, or the Xamarin bindings for iOS and Android.

Now think about developers who start on this stack and can write any application for any of the platforms that .NET provides support for. The branding we currently have makes no sense to them. To find documentation and tutorials, the only two things a developer should need to know is the name and version of their technology stack.

Let's contrast this with some of the NuGet packages that developers have to author for today's world:

There are a lot of names and version numbers. Knowing who is compatible with who is impossible without a decoder ring. We've simplified this greatly with .NET Standard, but this still requires a table that maps .NET Standard versions to .NET implementation versions.

The proposal is to reuse the existing net TFM and model OS-specific APIs on top via a new syntax:

  • net5.0. This TFM is for code that runs everywhere. It combines and replaces the netcoreapp and netstandard names. This TFM will generally only include technologies that work cross-platform (modulo pragmatic concessions, like we already did in .NET Standard).

  • net5.0-android, net5.0-ios, and net5.0-windows. These TFMs represent OS specific flavors of .NET 5 that include net5.0 plus OS-specific bindings.

NuGet should use this new syntax to automatically understand that net5.0 can be consumed from net6.0-windows (but not the other way around). More importantly, this notation will also enable developers to intuitively understand compatibility relationships because they are expressed by naming, rather than by mapping tables. Yay!

Scenarios and User Experience

Vary implementation

Ida is working on a Xamarin Forms application that supports Android, iOS, and Windows. Her application needs GPS information, but only a very limited set. Since there is no portable GPS API, she writes her own little abstraction library using multi-targeting.

By doing so, she's able to encapsulate the GPS access without having to multi-target her entire application, just this one area.

public static class GpsLocation
    public static bool IsSupported
            return true;
            return false;

    public static (double Latitude, double Longitude) GetCoordinates()
        return AndroidAPI();
#elif IOS
        return AppleAPI();
        return WindowsAPI();
        throw new PlatformNotSupportedException();

Vary API surface

Ada is a developer on SkiaSharp, a cross-platform 2D graphics API for .NET platforms based on Google's Skia Graphics Library. The project is already using multi-targeting to provide different implementations for different platforms. To make it easier to use, she's adding a new SkiaSharpImage type, which represents a bitmap and is constructed via OS-provided data types. Ada uses #if to expose different constructors on different platforms:

public class SkiaSharpImage
    public SkiaSharpImage(Android.Media.Image nativeImage) { /* ... */  }

#if IOS
    public SkiaSharpImage(NSImage nativeImage) { /* ... */ }

    public SkiaSharpImage(Windows.Media.BitmapImage nativeImage) { /* ... */ }

Upgrading the OS bindings

Miguel is building Baby Shark, a popular iOS application. He started with .NET that supported iOS 13 but Apple just released iOS 14. He downloads the updated version of the .NET 5 SDK which now also includes support for iOS 14. In order to gain access to the new APIs that Apple has added, Miguel opens his project file which currently looks like this:

<Project Sdk="Microsoft.NET.Sdk">




He modifies the <TargetFramework> to be net5.0-ios14.0.

Lighting up on later OS versions

Miguel doesn't want to cut off his users who are currently on iOS 13, so he wants to continue to have his application work on iOS 13 as well. To achieve that, Miguel modifies the project file by adding <SupportedOSPlatformVersion>:

<Project Sdk="Microsoft.NET.Sdk">




However, since Miguel also uses the new NSFizBuzz API that Apple added in iOS 14, he also modifies his source code to check for the operating system version before calling it:

public void OnClick(object sender, EventArgs e)
    if (OperatingSystem.IsIOSVersionAtLeast(14))

Consuming a library with a higher SupportedOSPlatformVersion

After using NSFizzBuzz directly for a while, Miguel notices that these OS APIs are a bit hard to use, so he looks for a .NET library. He finds Monkey.FizzBuzz, which he tries to reference, which succeeds. However, when building his application he gets the following warning:

warning NU1702: Package 'Monkey.FizzBuzz' was restored using 'net5.0-ios14' and has 'SupportedOSPlatformVersion' of '14.0' while the project has a value of '13.0'. You should either upgrade your project to '14.0' or only make calls into the library after checking that the OS version is '14.0' or higher.

Since Miguel already guarded all method calls, he simply suppresses the warning.

Consuming a library with a higher TargetPlatformVersion

After the success of using Monkey.FizzBuzz in his Baby Shark app, Miguel wants to use it everywhere now, so he decides to use it in his existing Laserizer 5000 app. However, when he adds a reference to Monkey.FizzBuzz, he gets an error from NuGet:

error NU1202: Package 'Monkey.FizzBuzz' is not compatible with 'net5.0-ios13.0'. Package 'Monkey.FizzBuzz' supports: net5.0-ios14.0

So Miguel edits his project file by changing net5.0-ios13.0 to net5.0-ios14.0 which fixes the error.

Using a higher TargetPlatformVersion than the current SDK

Claire has the first release of the .NET 5 SDK that only ships bindings for iOS 13. She clones Miguel's Baby Shark repo from GitHub and tries to build it on her machine. Since Baby Shark targets net5.0-ios14.0 she gets a build error:

error NETSDK1045: The current .NET SDK does not support targeting iOS 14.0. Either target iOS 13.0, or use a version of the .NET SDK that supports iOS 14.0. [BabyShark.csproj]



  • Use naming that aligns with product strategy
  • Merge .NET Core and .NET Standard into a single concept
  • Developers should be able to understand compatibility relationships without having to consult a mapping table.
  • Provide compatibility with existing concepts and NuGet packages
  • It would be great to get this into early previews of .NET 5
  • Support multi-targeting different versions of the same OS
  • Don't force multi-targeting for different versions of the same OS. It should be possible to produce a single binary that can use newer APIs when calls are properly guarded with an OS check.


  • Replace TFMs or expand runtime identifiers (RIDs)


We'll have the following TFMs:

TFM Compatible With Comments
net5.0 net1..4 (with NU1701 warning) No WinForms or WPF
netcoreapp1..3.1 (warning when WinForms/WPF is referenced)
net5.0-android xamarin.android
(+everything else inherited from net5.0)
net5.0-ios xamarin.ios
(+everything else inherited from net5.0)
net5.0-macos xamarin.mac
(+everything else inherited from net5.0)
net5.0-tvos xamarin.tvos
(+everything else inherited from net5.0)
net5.0-watchos xamarin.watchos
(+everything else inherited from net5.0)
net5.0-windows netcoreapp1..3.1 WinForms + WPF
(+everything else inherited from net5.0)
Tizen, Unity... Will follow the Xamarin model


We need to decide what precedences we want the new TFMs to have in relation to the old ones as well as in relation with the new universally portable TFM net5.0 (and higher).

Let's look at two examples:

  • Example A
    • Project targets net6.0-ios
    • Package offers
      • net6.0
      • net5.0-ios
  • Example B
    • Project targets net6.0-ios
    • Package offers
      • net6.0
      • xamarin.ios

There are effectively two options:

  1. Prefer platform-specific assets, regardless how old their version is.
  2. Prefer the assets that are closer in version number.
Example Option (1) Option (2)
A net5.0-ios net6.0
B xamarin.ios net6.0

We prefer Option (2). @mhutch described it best:

I prefer the Option (2) because it allows re-converging to platform-neutral: in both A and B, if net6.0 added functionality that meant that the iOS specific implementation was no longer necessary, then the package would not need to have net6.0-ios assets.

If the net5.0-ios assembly has iOS-specific functionality, then when the package adds net6.0 it should also add net6.0-ios, else it feels to me like a broken package.

@dsplaisted also added this:

One of the main benefits of the target framework changes in .NET 5 and on is that it aligns the version numbers of the platform specific targets (net5.0-ios) with the portable target (net5.0). This makes it easy to understand the version compatibility rules. It also means that we can have a simple and easy understand rule for choosing the best asset that is more likely to produce a result that matches the intent of a package author.

And finally @ericstj added that the current model (where we prefer platform-specific assets, regardless of version number) isn't helpful:

Option (2) makes sense to me. I don't recall a place where we've actually preferred that RIDs had precedence over TFM. Usually it's a problem and results in bloated packages. I like reversing the precedence here.

This leads to these rules:

  1. Select list of applicable assets
    • This will include netX.Y, netX.Y-*, and xamarin.* if they are considered compatible
    • This will not include assets that use an OS/OS version that is incompatible with the project.
  2. Group netX.Y* by X.Y and sort groups from highest to lowest
  3. If the first group contains both a netX.Y and a netX.Y-* or a xamarin.*, pick netX.Y-*. If multiple entries for netX.Y-* exist, pick the highest version.
  4. If no groups were produced, pick the appropriate TFM based on existing rules (this covers .NET Standard, PCLs, and general asset target fallback).

Then intention is:

  1. We slice the package assets to find the latest .NET version that is compatible with the project.
  2. If the latest .NET version provides both a platform-specific- and a portable asset, we'll prefer the platform-specific asset.
  3. If multiple platform-specific assets exist, we'll use the one with the highest compatible OS version.
  4. Stay backwards compatible with existing .NET Standard rules.

OS versions

The TFM will support an optional OS version, such as:

  • net5.0-ios
  • net5.0-ios12.0

A TFM without an OS version will be interpreted as the lowest OS version that was supported by the corresponding netX.Y version.

Note: One assumption here is that developers can always compile for the latest OS API set and run on older OS versions so long they guard method calls correctly. This is how P/Invokes, WinRT, iOS, and Android bindings work today.

For example, say that when .NET 5 ships, the version of iOS that we include bindings for is iOS 13. That would mean that net5.0-ios and net5.0-ios13.0 mean the exact same thing. Now lets say that Apple ships a new iOS 14 before .NET 6 is ready. We'd release a new version of the .NET 5 SDK that adds support for iOS 14. On machines with that SDK net5.0-ios still means net5.0-ios13.0.

Please note that this mapping is specific for net5.0. When .NET 6 ships, we could decide that net6.0-ios means net6.0-ios14.0. But even when you use the .NET 6 SDK, when targeting .NET 5, net5.0-ios also still means net5.0-ios13.0. So these mappings are immutable.

We have done this to simplify the experience for application models where the OS version is largely irrelevant, for example WinForms and WPF. Whether or not the template will put an OS version in the <TargetFramework> is up to each application model. Based on conversations, it seems we'll be landing on this:

TFM Project file includes OS version
net5.0-android Yes
net5.0-ios Yes
net5.0-macos Yes
net5.0-tvos Yes
net5.0-watchos Yes
net5.0-windows No

Please note that by being able to put the OS version into the TFM one can also multi-target between OS versions:


However, it's a bit misleading to think of the OS version number as the version of the operating system you're running on. Rather, it's the operating system's API you're compiling for.

People should really think of the TFM's OS version as the version number of the .NET OS bindings. Under normal circumstances we'll rev that version in lock step with the OS. This will make it easy to understand which version you need to gain access to the APIs. However, there are cases where that's not possible. For example, iOS API bindings aren't fully generated; they require manual work. Depending on how large the API surface in a given OS update is we might decide to finish the bindings for the most useful OS APIs first and add other bindings later (which we have done in the past). If the OS normally ships APIs in major.minor then we can use the third digit to indicate binding-only updates. However, we don't control the OS version so in principle there is no guarantee that they don't ship new APIs in third- or fourth digit updates.

Let's look at a concrete example. Assume that we shipped .NET 5 with iOS 13.0 support and Apple released an update to iOS with new APIs, say iOS 13.1. Let's say it takes us a few updates to finish binding them all:

TFM Description
net5.0-ios13.0 The entirety of iOS 13.0
net5.0-ios13.1.1 First batch of bindings for iOS 13.1.
net5.0-ios13.1.2 Second batch of bindings for iOS 13.1.
net5.0-ios13.1.3 Third batch of bindings for iOS 13.1.

Now let's say that Apple decides to ship an iOS 13.1.1 with new APIs as well. As you can see, we already used that number to indicate the first batch of 13.1 APIs. No biggie, we'd just bind these APIs in the next available train, which happens to be net5.0-ios13.1.4.

We don't expect this to be too confusing because we generally encourage people to compile against the latest available OS API set and use SupportedOSPlatformVersion in order to run on older versions. The reference assembly for the OS bindings will also include an attribute per API indicating which OS version is required. These attributes, as well as SupportedOSPlatformVersion, will always be set to actual OS versions.

So in practice we don't expect people having to match TFMs to specific OS version but it's good to have numbers that are "close" enough to give project maintainers some idea of what's available to them.

Mapping to properties

These are the relevant MSBuild properties:

Property Meaning Examples
TargetFramework (TFM) The friendly name net4, netcoreapp3.0
TargetFrameworkIdentifier (TFI) The long name .NETFramework or .NETCoreApp
TargetFrameworkVersion (TFV) The version number v2, v3.0, v3.1
TargetFrameworkProfile (TFP) The profile Client or Profile124
TargetPlatformIdentifier (TPI) The OS platform iOS, Android, Windows
TargetPlatformVersion (TPV) The OS platform version 12.0 or 13.0
SupportedOSPlatformVersion (SOPV) The minimum OS platform version 12.0 or 13.0

We're going to map the TFMs as follows:

net4.X .NETFramework v4.X
net5.0 .NETCoreApp v5.0
net5.0-androidX.Y .NETCoreApp v5.0 Android X.Y X.Y (defaulted)
net5.0-iosX.Y .NETCoreApp v5.0 iOS X.Y X.Y (defaulted)
net5.0-windowsX.Y .NETCoreApp v5.0 Windows X.Y X.Y (defaulted)


  • We'll continue to use .NETCoreApp as the TFI. This reduces the number of places build logic needs to change in MSBuild files (both built-in targets as well as third party targets deployed via NuGet packages).

  • net4x and earlier will continue to use .NETFramework as the TFI. This means that net4x and net5.0 aren't considered compatible by default, but the compatibility will continue to be provided by .NET Framework compatibility mode we introduced in .NET Standard 2.0. It's handled via AssetTargetFallback in NuGet restore which also means consumers from net5.0 will continue to get a proper warning.

  • SupportedOSPlatformVersion is defaulted to TargetPlatformVersion. However, the customer can override this in the project file to a lower version (using a higher version than TargetPlatformVersion should generate an error).

Open Issue. Please note that net5.0+ will map the TFI to .NETCoreApp. We need to announce this change so that package authors with custom .props and .targets are prepared. Link to DavKean's doc on how to do it.

Open Issue. We should try to keep the TFI out of the .nuspec file. It seems NuGet uses the long form .NETFramework,Version=4.5 in the dependency groups. We may want to change NuGet to allow the friendly name there as well and update our packaging tools to re-write to friendly name on pack.

Mapping to long names

As mentioned earlier, TFMs have multiple formats. The most common ones are the friendly name (netstandard2.0) and the long name (.NETStandard, Version=2.0). NuGet also uses some other encodings (such as .NETStandard2.0).

All places that have to refer to a NuGet asset need a naming encoding that can represent the new TFMs which now also includes platform information. We'd like to avoid using a long name like

.NETCoreApp, Version=5.0, Platform=iOS, PlatformVersion=13.0

The reason being that the NuGet short name is essentially used to encode both a target framework and a target platform, both of which already have a canonical long name form.

Since the friendly name has become the primary name that developers author in the developer experience (project file, NuGet folder names, etc) we'd like to standardize on that encoding. Unfortunately, NuGet itself isn't consistent with using the friendly name today. We generally don't want to break backwards compatibility, that is existing frameworks should be encoded in the way they are encoded today, be that friendly name, long name or some custom encoding.

However, for frameworks in the .NET 5 era (and later) we want to consistently use the friendly name.

The same applies to public APIs (for example, NuGet or the dependency model) that return framework names: .NET 5 era TFMs should use the friendly names, all other TFMs should be returned in whatever encoding they are returned today.

Concretely, this means the following:

  • project.assets.json
    • Use friendly name for .NET 5 and higher
    • Eventually we'd like to update the format so that the keys to the target are not necessarily parseable TFMs, but can be arbitrary strings defined in the <TargetFrameworks> property. That would mean we'd need to store the target framework and target platform information (and probably the RID) separately (see NuGet/Home#5154).
  • packages.lock.json
    • Use friendly name for .NET 5 and higher
    • For other target frameworks use current encoding (i.e. long form)
    • This allows old and new tooling to be used in the same repo
  • .nuspec files
    • Use friendly name for .NET 5 and higher
    • Use existing nuspec form (which is neither friendly- nor long name) for other targets
    • This will preserve compatibility with older clients, and can be considered mostly an implementation detail of NuGet
  • GetDotNetFrameworkName() NuGet API
    • Use friendly name for .NET 5 and higher
  • Package Manager UI in VS

Windows-specific behavior

Open Issue. Review with WinForms/WPF & Windows folks.

  • We need to define what the Windows version number is. It should probably be the minimum for WPF/WinForms (because that makes the most sense until we ship support for WinRT in .NET 5). Generally speaking, we expect UWP flavors to burn in into the project file, just like iOS and Android.

  • When would the WinRT APIs be referenced? Should they show up by default (assuming the project specified they correct version for the WinRT bindings) or should there be an equivalent for UseWindowsForms? We probably don't want an opt-in for the foundational WinRT APIs but maybe for the UI layer.

NuGet pack behavior

We need to update the .nuspec format to allow embedding target platform information per TFM.

For that, I propose to add a platforms element under metadata.

Note This is just meant to be a strawman for NuGet so we can talk about semantics. The NuGet team should specify the actual encoding. Once spec is available, we'll link it from here.

For each netX.Y-{os}{version}, it should contain a platform that ties the TFM as specified to their corresponding TargetPlatformVersion and SupportedOSPlatformVersion entries:

<package xmlns="...">
    <description>Package Description</description>
      <platform targetFramework="net5.0-ios"
                platformMinimumVersion="13.0" />
      <platform targetFramework="net6.0-ios14"
                platformMinimumVersion="14.0" />

We want to make sure that we preserve the TFM from the project file:

  • TFM doesn't contain an OS. If the TFM is just the neutral netX.Y TFM then the .nuspec's <platform> element shouldn't list the TFM. If there are no <platform> elements, the <platforms> element should be omitted as well.

  • TFM has an OS but no OS version. If the user omits the OS version number from the project's <TargetFramework> property, all usages of the TFM should not contain an OS version number, including the project's output directory, the lib folder in the NuGet package, and other corresponding entries in the .nuspec. However, the effective OS version will be recorded in the .nuspec's <platform> element that corresponds to the TFM.

  • TFM has both OS and OS version. If the project did contain an OS version for <TargetFramework> this should also be reflected by the project's output directory, lib folder, and TFM references in the .nuspec.

This means that in some cases the platformVersion attribute will have redundant information but it will also always be the source of truth. It allows NuGet to know the OS version even if the OS version isn't included in the TFM.

For cases where someones wants to pack two lib folders like this:

  • net5.0-ios
  • net5.0-ios13.0

and net5.0-ios's is mapped to be platform version 13.0, the pack operation should fail because both lib folders are representing the same target (the same applies to other usages of the TFM in the ref and runtime folders).

NuGet installation behavior

The TFM part before the dash will behave as today: projects can reference the same or an older version of netX.Y, but not a newer version. Trying to do should result in a package installation failure. The OS portion will follow the same rules.

The rationale is the same for both: when the library author compiled for a higher version, it had access to more APIs, which the consuming project doesn't have. This can cause compilation errors due to unresolved types as well as runtime errors due to unresolved members.

The world is a bit different for SupportedOSPlatformVersion. NuGet should allow installation of packages whose SupportedOSPlatformVersion is higher than the consuming project. The rationale here is that the consuming project might only want to use the library on higher versions of the operating system and can conditionally call the library code. The behavior should be similar to AssetTargetFallback where installation of the package succeeds but each time the project is built a warning is produced, which must be suppressible by using the <NoWarn> property in the project file or on the <PackageReference> item.

Valid platforms

One question is whether third parties can extend the TFM space with a new platform (that is, the part after the dash) without having to rely on changes in NuGet/MSBuild. We believe that supporting a new platform would require MSBuild logic that is not part of the core .NET SDK. So we will do the following:

  • NuGet will not have a list of allowed platform names. It will understand the compatibility mappings (ie net5.0-android and higher is compatible with xamarin.android), but will not otherwise have specific knowledge of each possible platform.

  • The .NET SDK will have logic to generate a build error if the TargetPlatformIdentifier is something that is not supported. This will protect against typos in the platform part of the TargetFramework and against seeming to build correctly when trying to target a platform that is not supported.

  • MSBuild logic outside of the .NET SDK will be able to communicate that the TargetPlatformIdentifier is supported. So the iOS and Android workloads will set a property indicating that the corresponding platform is supported, which will suppress the error in the core .NET SDK. Likewise, a third party MSBuild SDK could set the same property to enable another platform.

  • Comparison of platform identifiers should be case insensitive, but normalized by the MSBuild logic that supports that platform. So with a TargetFramework of net5.0-android, NuGet should parse out the platform as Android. The core .NET SDK will then set the TargetPlatformIdentifier to android. The Android workload should then normalize the casing of the TargetPlatformIdentifier property to Android. Similarly, the iOS Workload and Windows targets should normalize the TargetPlatformIdentifier to iOS and Windows.

What about .NET 10?

Due to the fact that we're planning to bump the major version every year, we have to think about what will happen with version parsing in case of two digit version numbers, such as net10. Since net10 already has a meaning (.NET Framework 1.0), we need to keep it that way. To avoid surprises, we'll by default use dotted version numbers in project templates to push developers towards being explicit.

Framework Identifier Version Comment
net5 .NETCoreApp 5.0 Will work, but shouldn't be used.
net5.0 .NETCoreApp 5.0
net10 .NETFramework 1.0
net10.0 .NETCoreApp 10.0

Preprocessor Symbols

Today, SDK-style projects automatically define #if symbols based on the friendly TFM representation. This includes both versionless- as well as version-specific symbols:

TFM Project-style Automatic Defines
net45 CSPROJ
net48 CSPROJ
netcoreapp3.1 SDK-style NETCOREAPP, NETCOREAPP3_1

For .NET 5 and higher we plan to define the following symbols:

TFM Automatic Defines


  • We continue to define NETCOREAPP for backwards compatibility with existing #if code.
  • Moving forward we'll use NET as the versionless symbol (for .NET Framework we used NETFRAMEWORK, so no conflict there).
  • We'll follow the rule-based creation in SDK-style projects which takes the friendly TFM name without the OS flavor, makes it upper-case and replaces special characters with an underscore.
  • For OS flavors we'll do the same, i.e. create versionless as well as version specific symbols.

In order to make it easier to update code, especially when doing multi-targeting, we should make them additive, so that when targeting net6.0 both NET6_0 and NET5_0 are defined. The same applies to OS bindings. Examples:

  • net5.0
    • NETCOREAPP, NETCOREAPP3_1 (for backwards compatibility)
    • NET, NET5_0
  • net6.0
    • (same as net5.0)
    • NET6_0
  • net5.0-ios13.0
    • (same as net5.0)
    • IOS, IOS13_0
  • net5.0-ios14.0
    • (same as net5.0-ios13)
    • IOS14_0

What would we target?

Everything that is universal or portable to many platforms will target net5.0. This includes most libraries but also ASP.NET Core and EF.

Platform-specific libraries would target platform-specific flavors. For example, WinForms and WPF controls would target net5.0-windows.

Cross-platform application models (Xamarin Forms, ASP.NET Core) and bridge packs (Xamarin Essentials) would at least target net5.0 but might also additionally target platform-specific flavors to light-up more APIs or features. This approach is also called bait & switch.

TFMs in the UI

There are some places in the IDE where targeting information is displayed:

Rule Affected UI
For most UI, we should use the TFM friendly name (for example, netcoreapp3.1, net5.0, or net5.0-ios). Solution Explorer, Editor Context Switcher, Debug Context Switcher
For cases where we use branded display names, we should use the name .NET 5. Project Properties

Related work

To support multi-targeting end-to-end the TFM unification isn't enough. We also need to unify the SDKs between .NET Core, Windows desktop, Xamarin, and maybe ASP.NET Core. Without it, multi-targeting doesn't work without having to use 3rd party tools, such as Claire's MSBuild.Extras.

We should also make it easier to catch cases where some APIs aren't universally available anymore. This includes fundamentals like threading for platforms like WASM but also version-to-version differences in OS API surface. We already have an analyzer, but we need to expand this and make it a key capability that is available out-of-the-box.

Q & A

Why can't we just have a single TFM for .NET 5?

Moving forward, we can assume that the base class library (BCL) of .NET is the same across all environments of .NET. One can think of net5.0 as .NET Standard but with an implementation (.NET Core).

However, net5.0 will not include .NET projections of OS APIs, such as:

  • WinRT
  • iOS bindings
  • Android bindings
  • Web assembly host APIs

We could make all APIs available everywhere. For example, we could create one NuGet package per OS-platform and include two implementations, one that throws and one that works. The package would use RIDs to select the correct implementation, but it would have a uniform API surface. Callers of those packages would use platform checks or catch PlatformNotSupportedException.

We believe this isn't the right approach for two reasons:

  1. Number of moving pieces. Imagine what a simple class library would look like that just wants to provide an abstraction over a single concept, such as the GPS. It would transitively depend on all OS bindings. Regardless of the platform you're building your application for, the output folder would have to include all bindings across OS platforms, with all being throwing implementations except for the one that your app is targeting. While we could build tooling (such as a linker) that could remove this and replace the call sites with throw statements, it seems backwards to first create this mess and then rely on tooling to clean it up. It would be better to avoid this problem by construction.

  2. Versioning issues. By making the OS bindings available on top of the .NET platform the consumer is now able to upgrade the .NET platform and the OS bindings independently, which makes it hard to explain what combinations are supported. In practice, the OS bindings will want to depend on .NET types which might change over time (think Task<T> or Span<T>), so not every combination can work.

We believe it's much easier if we enable code to use multi-targeting (that is, compile the same code for multiple platforms, like we do today.

Is .NET 5 a superset of .NET Framework 4.x?

No, .NET 5 isn't a superset of .NET Framework. However, .NET 5 is the successor of both .NET Core 3.x as well as .NET Framework 4.x. Starting with .NET Core 3, you can build the same kind of workloads that you can with .NET Framework. Some of the tech has changed, but that's the way it's going to be forever. The remaining delta will never be closed. Existing apps can stay on .NET Framework and will be supported, but we already said we'll no longer add new features to it.

Thus, new apps should start on .NET Core. By branding it as .NET 5, this recommendation is much more obvious to both existing customers and new customers.

Why are the OS specific flavors not versioned by the OS?

No longer applicable as we decided to allow that.

There are a couple of reasons why this isn't desirable:

  1. It results a combinatorial explosion. A TFM in the form of net5.0-windows7 would (syntactically) make any combination of .NET and OS possible. This raises the question which combinations are supported, which puts us back into having to provide the customer with a decoder ring.

  2. It can make asset selection ill-defined. Suppose the project is targeting net7.0-windows10. The package offers net5.0-windows10.0 and net6.0-windows7.0. Now neither asset would be better.

  3. A single version isn't enough. Logically, you need at least two version numbers to support OS targeting:

    • Minimum OS API Level. Consumers of the library must use an SDK that support this version, or a higher version. This allows library authors to use types from the OS bindings in their public API surface without causing type resolution issues for the consumer.

    • Minimum OS version. For OS calls, it's common to guard OS calls with version checks. This allows library authors to light up for later OS versions without having to produce multiple binaries. In order for that to be sound, a project generally cannot have lower version than whatever its libraries support, unless the consumer guards their calls into that library.

    Some platforms, such as Android, also have the notion of a targeted OS version that indicates to the OS what behavior the author tested for. When running on a later OS version, the OS might "quirk" the behavior to preserve backwards compatibility.

Developers will want to target different OS versions from a single code base/NuGet package, but that doesn't mean they will need to use multi-targeting. Multi-targeting is a very heavy hammer. Yes, many people are using it to target different versions of .NET (for example, net45 vs net461). But that's not necessarily because #if is the better experience, it's because it's simply not possible any other way, due to .NET runtime constraints (that is, assembly references and type/member references need to be resolved by the JIT). This problem doesn't exist for OS APIs. Developers can generally build a single binary for multiple versions of an operating system. The calls to APIs introduced in later versions must be guarded, but this is generally understood, and we have some limited tooling already with plans to extend it.

How can I ensure my NuGet package/project can express OS requirements?

We do want to allow the developer to express a minimum version they require for the OS. It will likely be expressed as additional properties in the project file that are also being persisted in the resulting NuGet package as well. It's not decided on whether violating the perquisites will always be an error. For example, we could decide to make Minimum OS API Level an error (because it might result in compilation errors) while making Minimum OS version a warning (because the consuming project could guard the method calls into the library).

There is a separate doc that we're working on.

Why is there no TFM for Blazor?

Based on conversations with the Blazor team we decided to not create a TFM for WASM in the browser. That's because Blazor wants agility where code can transparently work on client and server. Thus, they will continue to use net5.0. The browser-specific APIs will be delivered as a NuGet package, using RIDs to provide a throwing and non-throwing implementation. Other parties will have to do the same thing.

Why is the TFM called net5.0-browser and net5.0-wasm?

No longer applicable as we won't have a TFM for Blazor.

WASM isn't a platform (in the OS sense) as much as it is an instruction set architecture, so it's better to think of WASM as something like x86/x64. So, it might not make sense to define net5.0-wasm. Rather, it would make more sense to define net5.0-browser. The rationale is that the browser will run WASM in a sandboxed environment which equates to having different native API sets.

Any host that controls the JS runtime (for example, Node.js) could decide to expose different/less constrained OS, which might give rise to other TFMs, such as net5.0-node.

What about native dependencies?

We don't plan to support varying API surface based on runtime characteristics (x86/x64, AOT/JIT etc). This will continue to be supported via the runtime/<RID> folder.

Will the new TFMs simplify the project files too?

@cartermp asked:

Does specifying net5.0-windows obviate the current three things you need to specify?

  • netcoreapp3.x
  • Desktop SDK attribute
  • UseWindowsForms/UseWPF

IOW are we going to have to support both formats moving forward? What about converting apps?

Generally, it does not. The idea I've heard is that all project types will be unified to use Sdk="Microsoft.NET.Sdk" in order to make multi-targeting easier. Customizations (for example, specific targets and references) would be brought in via UseXxx properties, akin to how Windows Forms and WPF work in .NET Core today. The reason is that in many cases the TFM alone isn't specific enough to decide what kind of app are you building:

  • net5.0. Is a class library/console app, an ASP.NET Core app, or a Blazor app?
  • net5.0-windows. Are you building a Windows Forms app or a WPF app? Are you using both Windows Forms and WPF or just one?

The nice thing about properties is that they naturally compose. If certain combinations aren't possible, they can be blocked relatively easily.

However, at this point it's still unclear whether the SDK unification will work this way. One concern was that SDKs also bring in new item groups and might have conflicting defaults for properties; this works today because the SDK can bring in .props before the project file. When we rely on properties in the project file, we need to bring those in the .targets (that is, the bottom of the project file). While not impossible, this might force us to have knowledge in the base SDK that can't be easily extended via optional components. @mhutch is working on a document specifically around SDK convergence.

Why is there no TFM for Linux?

The primary reason for OS specific TFMs is to vary API surface, not for varying behavior. RIDs allow varying behavior and have support for various Linux flavors. Specifically, TFMs aren't (primarily) meant to allow calling P/Invokes under #if, most of the time that should be done by doing runtime checks or by using RIDs. The primary reason for a TFM is to exclude large amounts of managed representations for OS technologies (WinForms, WPF, Apple's NS APIs, Android etc).

Also, Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows share that they offer a stable ABI so that exchanging binaries makes sense. Linux is too generic of a concept for that, it's basically just the kernel, which again boils down to the only thing you can do is calling P/Invokes.

Why is .NET 5.0's TFI still mapped to .NETCoreApp?

In MSBuild you can't easily do comparisons like:

<ItemGroup Condition="'$(TargetFramework)' >= 'net5.0'`">

because that would be a string comparison. Rather, you need to do a comparison like this:

<ItemGroup Condition="'$(TargetFrameworkIdentifier)' == '.NETCoreApp' AND $([MSBuild]::VersionGreaterThanOrEquals($(TargetFrameworkVersion), '3.0'))">

And to check for things before a specific version do a comparison like this:

<ItemGroup Condition="'$(TargetFrameworkIdentifier)' == '.NETCoreApp' AND $([MSBuild]::VersionLessThan($(TargetFrameworkVersion), '3.0'))">

If we had used TargetFrameworkVersion instead of using the VersionLessThan and the VersionGreaterThanOrEquals msbuild functions we would see this error for both conditions:

error MSB4086: A numeric comparison was attempted on "$(TargetFrameworkVersion)" that evaluates to "v3.0" instead of a number, in condition "'$(TargetFrameworkIdentifier)' == '.NETCoreApp' AND '$(TargetFrameworkVersion)' >= '3.0'". error MSB4086: A numeric comparison was attempted on "$(TargetFrameworkVersion)" that evaluates to "v3.0" instead of a number, in condition "'$(TargetFrameworkIdentifier)' == '.NETCoreApp' AND '$(TargetFrameworkVersion)' &lt; '3.0'".

By us mapping net5.0 we break less of that code because existing code will treat it correctly (i.e. as a future version of .NET Core) and also avoid misclassification as .NET Framework.