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Google, Microsoft and Mozilla Team Up to Launch WebAssembly


Engineers from Google, Microsoft, Mozilla and several other Webkit project engineers have teamed up to launch WebAssembly, a binary format for compiling applications for the web. The idea behind this format is to provide developers with a single compilation target that will be implemented in all browsers.

WebAssembly is a project to create a new bytecode that will be more efficient for desktop as well as mobile browsers than full source code of a web page. The new format allows programmers to compile their code for the browser and it is then executed inside the JavaScript engine. Instead of parsing the full code, WebAssembly can be decoded much faster.

The new model is basically to allow developers to run non-JavaScript source code quickly with the rest of the web. The WebAssembly team decided to go with binary format as the code can be compressed more as compared to standard JavaScript text files. WebAssembly aims to bring the best of Mozilla’s asm.js and Google’s Native Client Project to the browser.


Brendan Eich, JavaScript creator and former Mozilla CEO, said in a blog post, “asm.js is great, but once engines optimize for it, the parser becomes the hot spot — very hot on mobile devices. Transport compression is required and saves bandwidth, but decompression before parsing hurts.”

“Bottom line: With co-evolution of JS and wasm, in a few years, I believe all the top browsers will sport JS engines that have become truly polyglot virtual machines,” Eich said. “I predict that JS over the same time span will endure and evolve to absorb more APIs and hardware-based affordances — but not all, where wasm carries the weight.”

The team makes it clear that the idea is not to replace JavaScript, but to allow many more languages to be compiled for the web.

WebAssembly is in its early days and nothing has come out as of its specifications or high level design. It is not often seen that all major browser vendors like Google, Mozilla and Apple work together on a project, so this is definitely it’s worth seeing.

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