|WebAssemby Another Milestone|
|Written by Ian Elliot|
|Tuesday, 01 November 2016|
WebAssembly is most likely the next step for programs running in the browser and it is inching forward towards a release. The latest step is a coordinated preview in Chrome, Firefox and Edge, only leaving the question of where is Apple's Safari? What does WebAssembly mean for the future?
First we need to be clear what the big idea is.
The raw bytes in the first column are what are sent to the browser to run. The second column shows the assembly language version and the third is the corresponding C source that is complied to wasm.
The compiler outputs the raw bytes and this is not instantly human readable, but the browser can convert it to the text format automatically. Whether you regard this as human readable or not depends on how much assembler you have encountered. It is clear that we are moving away from the era where code in web pages was fairly easy to read.
The Firefox blog gives a recent graph comparing wasm, asm.js and native C/C++:
All of this is exciting but before you can use it the browsers have to implement it. The Chrome blog says:
Today we’re happy to announce, in tandem with Firefox and Edge, a WebAssembly Browser Preview. WebAssembly or wasm is a new runtime and compilation target for the web, designed by collaborators from Google, Mozilla, Microsoft, Apple, and the W3C WebAssembly Community Group.
The milestone involves:
This just about makes the whole thing usable as an experiment, but because the feature isn't in the production browsers you can't actually expect to ship the code to end users.
Notice the mention of Apple in the announcement. The Webkit browser is supposed to be developing wasm support, but they are doing quietly on their own and without joining in the releases. It isn't currently clear if Webkit and Safari will eventually ship with wasm. Why is Apple hanging back? Probably because the company hasn't made up its mind. Apple controls what runs under iOS and apps are a key attraction of the platform to the end user. If wasm becomes a reality there could well be little difference in performance between a native app and a wasm app and this might mean that Apple would lose control of the iOS app space. This is obviously speculation about Apple's motives but it is undeniable that it is the odd one out of the big browser makers when it comes to work on wasm.
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|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 01 November 2016 )|