Introduction to WebAssembly: why should we care?

  • There is a new weapon in the great war against JavaScript the struggle to allow developers to choose their favorite style of programming while improve performance and their productivity. That weapon is WebAssembly, that will revolutionize client-side web development.

    WebAssembly, or wasm, is a low-level bytecode format for in-browser client-side scripting. If you are writing a compiler for a programming language one option is to target a platform, like the JVM or .NET, and compile your language to the target bytecode. WebAssembly occupies the same role, so when you compiling to WebAssembly you are making your software available for all platforms where it is supported, in other words all browsers.

    In practical terms, WebAssembly is implemented by browsers’ developers on the back of the existing JavaScript engine. Essentially, it is designed to substitute JavaScript as the destination of compilers and transpilers on the web. For instance, instead of compiling TypeScript to JavaScript, its developers could now compile to WebAssembly. In short, it is not a new virtual machine, it is a new format for the same JavaScript VM that is included in every browser. This will make possible to take advantage of the existing JavaScript infrastructure, without using JavaScript.

    The design of the Minimum Viable Product was completed in March 2017 and now there are implementations ready for every major browser.

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