WebAssembly – Fourth Language of the Web

News Line

December 5th, 2019 – WebAssembly [Wasm] became a World Wide Web Consortium recommendation and joined HTML, CSS and JavaScript as the fourth language to run natively in browsers.

Almost 90% of the installed browsers (desktop and mobile) supported Wasm at the end of 2019. WebAssembly applications can be created using various languages and build tools, like C, C++, Rust, D, GO and others.

Roland Guelle, VP of Technology, Avenga

The Web and browser ecosystem is the most powerful and universal platform available today. The combination of HTML, CSS and JavaScript have been the key three ingredients since the 90s of the last century. Currently, JavaScript is one of the most used program languages (https://www.tiobe.com/tiobe-index/) in this powerful ecosystem.

Why WebAssembly?
The JavaScript ecosystem has grown massively in the last 10 years, driven by the major browser vendors, as well as node.js. Obviously, with its pros and cons, it has had highly optimized runtimes over the last 20 years but it is still “a script”. Now, it feels like it’s time for another option.

Will Wasm replace JavaScript?
Not in my opinion. Wasm adds another important component to the web/browser ecosystem. A large variety of other languages have powerful dev and build tools and developer target groups. With cases like 3D rendering, games, streaming, encryption and lots of other performance-critical tasks, Wasm will close the gap between scripting and low-level browser APIs. It is the dawn of new possibilities in today’s global widespread software ecosystem.

Jacek Chmiel, Director of Avenga Labs

Changes like this one don’t happen very often. So, it’s a significant addition to already great browsers and modern web capabilities. Even with highly optimized JavaScript engines, there are niche applications that require even more power.

Unfortunately, nowadays this power is being abused by crypto miners who use WebAssembly because of its speed. Simultaneously, more friendly applications will achieve greater popularity. Imagine, for instance, professional development tools in the cloud all running entirely in the browser, compilers and debuggers. I foresee the evolution of more high-efficiency image and video processing tools and more console / PC quality games in the browser.

What makes it even more interesting is the ability to port many C++ tools and applications to WebAssembly, allowing browsers and web users to access the new universe of applications and components. Near-native C++ speeds up without additional components and plugins. By the way, the same code can run both on the server and in the browser as Wasm is not limited to browsers only. I really hope that its full potential will be unleashed as it has just become standard recently.

Lyubomyr Senyuk, Director of R&D, Avenga

You might think Wasm is another JavaApplet, Silverlight or similar (more modern) tech that will die sooner or later as its predecessors did (or are doing), but a breaking point lies is the fact that Wasm is now a part of the standard and it is already supported by main browsers. So, Wasm will definitely address the niches like 3D designers, games and complex tools (like Figma designers tool which uses Wasm) and will die eventually with the HTML/CSS/JS sometime in the future, amongst the world of AI agents and humans connected to the network through neural interfaces.

Felix Hassert, Director of Products at Avenga

The abundance of source languages that compile to WebAssembly exponentially increase the number of developers able to work on software running in browsers, without sacrificing nor diminishing their experience, processes and the infrastructure that they are used to work with.

The web offers ease of access for both end-users looking for entertainment and new software solutions and developers or publishers in need of easy and reliable distribution infrastructure.

That being said, with Wasm’s performance being close to the performance of the software that is installed natively, and with the user experience that, for example, progressive web apps offer, I think we will see a vast increase in the sheer amount and quality of software delivered through the web.

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