What is LINQ?
Language Integrated Query (or LINQ, pronounced “link” for short), is a set of Microsoft® .NET technologies that provide built-in language querying functionality similar to SQL, not only for database access, but for accessing data from any source.
There is no one definition for LINQ, but it aims to solve the problem where we currently use different techniques for manipulating and selecting data from databases versus XML versus object collections; LINQ aims to make our life easier by giving us a coordinated, consistent and efficient syntax from our development environment and by using your one chosen programming language, rather than switching between programming languages.
The current LINQ family of technologies and concepts allows an extensible set of operators that work over objects, SQL data and XML data sources. The generalized architecture of the technology also allows the LINQ concepts to be expanded to almost any data domain or technology, so what LINQ is today will expand in the future.
I think the LINQ Project Overview
introduction by Don Box and Anders Hejlsberg is a great starting point -
After two decades, the industry has reached a stable point in the evolution of object-oriented (OO) programming technologies. Programmers now take for granted features like classes, objects, and methods. In looking at the current and next generation of technologies, it has become apparent that the next big challenge in programming technology is to reduce the complexity of accessing and integrating information that is not natively defined using OO technology. The two most common sources of non-OO information are relational databases and XML.
Rather than add relational or XML-specific features to our programming languages and runtime, with the LINQ project we have taken a more general approach and are adding general purpose query facilities to the .NET Framework that apply to all sources of information, not just relational or XML data. This facility is called .NET Language Integrated Query (LINQ).
We use the term language integrated query to indicate that query is an integrated feature of the developer's primary programming languages (e.g., C#, Visual Basic). Language integrated query allows query expressions to benefit from the rich metadata, compile-time syntax checking, static typing and IntelliSense that was previously available only to imperative code. Language integrated query also allows a single general-purpose declarative query facility to be applied to all in-memory information, not just information from external sources.
.NET Language Integrated Query defines a set of general-purpose standard query operators that allow traversal, filter, and projection operations to be expressed in a direct yet declarative way in any .NET-based programming language. The standard query operators allow queries to be applied to any IEnumerable-based information source. LINQ allows third parties to augment the set of standard query operators with new domain-specific operators that are appropriate for the target domain or technology. More importantly, third parties are also free to replace the standard query operators with their own implementations that provide additional services such as remote evaluation, query translation, optimization, etc. By adhering to the conventions of the LINQ pattern, such implementations enjoy the same language integration and tool support as the standard query operators.
The extensibility of the query architecture is used in the LINQ project itself to provide implementations that work over both XML and SQL data. The query operators over XML (XLinq) use an efficient, easy-to-use in-memory XML facility to provide XPath/XQuery functionality in the host programming language. The query operators over relational data (DLinq) build on the integration of SQL-based schema definitions into the CLR type system. This integration provides strong typing over relational data while retaining the expressive power of the relational model and the performance of query evaluation directly in the underlying store.
OverviewsLINQ to Objects - 5 Minute Overview
LINQ to SQL - 5 Minute Overview
LINQ to XML- 5 Minute OverviewLINQ Project Overview (.doc file)
The LINQ Project