Google, Microsoft, Mozilla And Others Team Up To Launch WebAssembly, A New Binary Format For The Web

Google, Microsoft, Mozilla and the engineers on the WebKit project today announced that they have teamed up to launch WebAssembly, a new binary format for compiling applications for the web.

The web thrives on standards and, for better or worse, JavaScript is its programming language. Over the years, however, we’ve seen more and more efforts that allow developers to work around some of the limitations of JavaScript by building compilers that transpile code in other languages to JavaScript. Some of these projects focus on adding new features to the language (like Microsoft’s TypeScript) or speeding up JavaScript (like Mozilla’s asm.js project). Now, many of these projects are starting to come together in the form of WebAssmbly.

The new format is meant to allow programmers to compile their code for the browser (currently the focus is on C/C++, with other languages to follow), where it is then executed inside the JavaScript engine. Instead of having to parse the full code, though, which can often take quite a while (especially on mobile), WebAssembly can be decoded significantly faster

The idea is that WebAssembly will provide developers with a single compilation target for the web that will, eventually, become a web standard that’s implemented in all browsers.

As JavaScript inventor (and short-term Mozilla CEO) Brendan Eich points out today, once the main browsers support the new format natively, JavaScript and WebAssembly will be able to diverge again.

The team notes that the idea here is not to replace JavaScript, by the way, but to allow many more languages to be compiled for the Web. Indeed, chances are that both JavaScript and WebAssembly will be used side-by-side and some parts of the application may use WebAssembly modules (animation, visualization, compression, etc.), while the user interface will still be mostly written in JavaScript, for example.

It’s not often that we see all the major browser vendors work together on a project like this, so this is definitely something worth watching in the months and years ahead.

Source: Techcrunch.com

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