Web Assembly: A Tectonic Shift

Originally posted at www.jordhy.com

Web Assembly is the next stop for bringing web sites closer to the speed and versatility of native apps. The new standard would provide an assembly layer of compiled code that can be executed as much as 20 times faster than JavaScript. Web Assembly is a W3C standard that will bring similar functionality as Java and .Net without the requiring any plugins.


WebAssembly, or wasm for short, is intended to be a portable bytecode that will be efficient for browsers to download and load, providing a more efficient target for compilers than plain JavaScript or even asm.js. Like, for example, .NET bytecode, wasm instructions operate on native machine types such as 32-bit integers, enabling efficient compilation…

WebAssembly will include both a binary notation, that compilers will produce, and a corresponding text notation, suitable for display in debuggers or development environments.  – Ars Technica


Major Changes Ahead

The basis for this article is to instill the notion that Web Assembly will not be an incremental improvement over JavaScript but a major step forward for the Web.

Web Assembly walks away from the notion that the Web is a collection of documents.

With native code directly available to browsers the first “truly real web apps” will come about. We will enjoy a snappier web with richer functionality and enhanced security and the cost of porting interactive applications to the Web will be substantially reduced as companies refactor their existing C/C++ code bases with ease. Games, videos, office applications, interactive applets and animations will all benefit from this major improvement.

Web Assembly fills the gap of plugins on the Mobile Web.

In particular, the mobile Web will gain an astounding amount of functionality provided developers can figure out a way to make native applications take advantage of responsive interfaces. Except for security concerns this will probably be the greatest technological factor arriving in the Mobile Web in 2016.

The State of Web Assembly in Early 2016

More Information

WebAssemblyOverview  – Github

Development of WebAssembly and associated infrastructure – Github

From ASM.JS to WebAssembly – Brendan Eich

JavaScript in 2016: Beyond Harmony – Oreilly