What Mozilla’s WebAssembly Means: More Powerful Web Apps

What Mozilla’s WebAssembly Means: More Powerful Web Apps

A standard championed by Mozilla and its rivals could supercharge the Web.

Competing browser makers, led by Mozilla’s Firefox engineers, made a surprising revelation last week: They’ve been secretly working on a joint project that could vault the Web into its next stage of evolution.

“I’m happy to report that we at Mozilla have started working with Chromium, Edge and WebKit engineers on creating a new standard, WebAssembly,” Luke Wagner, one of the project’s leaders, wrote in a blog post.

The immediate effect of WebAssembly (known as “wasm” for short) is that it should make online browsing faster. But that may be its least exciting benefit.

The standard could give developers the ability to take powerful, processor-hungry experiences—the type that has been primarily restricted to desktop software—and make them work well online. WebAssembly shouldn’t overcomplicate development, either. On the contrary, it streamlines the process, making Web-app creation easier.

That has deep implications in today’s app-obsessed world. All too often, developers and users are forced to pick hardware-oriented sides—Apple’s iOS and OS X, Google’s Android, Microsoft’s Windows, or another platform. If WebAssembly works to usher in powerful Web apps, developers tired of making (or remaking) apps to suit specific platforms could have a way off the porting merry-go-round.

The most promising aspect thus far: The standard won’t have to fight for support. Thanks to its origins as a collaboration between Web-standards rivals, the project will arrive with support from the major browsers already baked in.
Crossing The Wasm

When it comes to technical standards, adoption is no small matter. Some standards can age or even die on the shelf, waiting for widespread support. Take wireless charging, for instance.

Fighting between three major organizations, each championing a different approach, has kept the tech makers from rallying behind a particular one. Although two consortia have merged recently, the fight’s still not over.
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