A deeper dive into WebAssembly, the new executable format for the web

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Author recently spoke with some industry experts about three technologies they predict will be the Next Big Things. One of the 3 in particular deserves a more detailed look: WebAssembly (often abbreviated as Wasm). Wasm has caught the interest of many because it extends the language support for browsers beyond JavaScript. By Dave McAllister of F5.

No, it’s not a replacement for JavaScript; rather, it’s the fourth and newest language accepted by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) as an official web standard (along with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript).

Back in 2015, Mozilla started work on a new standard to define a “a portable, size‑ and load-time-efficient format and execution model” as a compilation target for web browsers. WebAssembly basically was designed to allow languages other than JavaScript to run within the browser. And Wasm quickly caught on with browser vendors, with all the major browsers supporting it.

Why should you care about WebAssembly?

  • Speed/performance
  • Size
  • Cross‑platform
  • Multi‑lingual
  • Security

If you have to run untrusted code in your browser, it must be isolated. Wasm achieves isolation with memory‑safe sandboxed execution environments. The current implementation isn’t perfect, but Wasm contributors are heavily focused on it, so I expect rapid improvement. You will get links to further reading, youtube video and resources to get you started with Wasm. Good read!

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