WebAssembly to the rescue

For many years, Javascript has been the backbone of the capabilities of many websites. The more paranoid (I mean, security conscious) use “noscript” plugins in their browsers to prevent Javascript running locally, but for most of us, we prefer to enjoy the richer experience offered by javascript enabled sites.

As always in IT, incompatibilities between different implementations of Javascript have caused many problems, but these have greatly lessened over the last few years.

One key issue with Javascript thought is performance. Unlike many mainstream computer programming languages, like C, for example, Javascript is an interpreted language. So every iteration around a loop results in the same javascript text being converted to something executable.

There have been a number of initiatives to make Javascript much more efficient, but these tend to have been from specific organisations for a limited set of browsers or back-end server environments.

WebAssembly (wasm for short) is a joint collaborative initiative involving Mozilla, Microsoft, Google and Apple.

It is a standard binary format, initially for Javascript but expected to support other languages in due course, that servers and browsers will be able to execute much much faster that standard Javascript code. Effectively a compiler approach, but with backward compatibility so the original Javascript can be derived and executed (more slowly) on environments that cannot directly execute the binary code.

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