MEF and System.AddIns

Several people asked about the relationship between MEF and the technology in System.AddIn namespace. The answer is that these two are independent and complementary features. MEF is a primarily a composition engine. System.AddIn is an add-in activation and isolation technology. MEF’s engine will be able to compose objects that are simple CLR object, COM and DCOM components (more precisely managed proxies to these components), remoting proxies, and finally System.AddIn add-ins.


The following is roughly how we see the basic “architecture” (conceptual diagram) of these technologies. As you can see on the diagram, the composition engine works on abstract representations of components currently called ComponentBinders. The composition engine is not concerned with how the parts are actually implemented or activated (COM, simple new operator, or System.AddIns activation). Its only concern is to inspect the binders for dependencies they need (imports) and objects they can give (exports), and provide “matchmaking” services for the binders (blue arrows on the diagram).