Web programming: Entry into WebAssembly | heise online


The idea of ​​bringing programming languages ​​other than JavaScript into the browser is almost as old as the programming language itself. Numerous attempts to integrate other ecosystems into the web platform, be it via browser plug-ins like Flash or with alternative languages ​​like Google Dart , but have not prevailed. JavaScript speech essays such as TypeScript or compile-to-JavaScript frameworks such as Vaadin are more successful. They can be used to compile various languages ​​and applications using JavaScript and thus bring them indirectly to the browser. The bottom line, however, is that these approaches are not optimal because they either require proprietary software components or try to use JavaScript to correct any shortcomings in JavaScript.

With WebAssembly (Wasm), the browser manufacturers have created a way that, at least in principle, allows any programming language apart from JavaScript to be used in a standardized way for the web. WebAssembly defines a binary format that a stack-based virtual machine performs. Wasm is not a new programming language, but rather a compilation target for various languages. A runtime environment (virtual machine) is required for use, which translates and executes WebAssembly’s binary format into machine code.

The WebAssembly virtual machine can be implemented as part of the browser or on any other platform. Wasm is not limited to the web platform on which the binary format was originally designed. The recently launched standard WebAssembly System Interface (WASI) shows that WebAssembly could play a role outside the web in the future. It defines an API for the interaction of Wasm with the respective operating system and is almost always used by the cloud provider. The current version 1.0 of WebAssembly can be used in all relevant browsers since 2018. Wasm has also been an official W3C standard since December 2019 and is therefore an integral part of the web platform.

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