WebAssembly: A scripting language for complex Web-Based Applications

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  August 13, 2022  / 
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The enhancements in technologies, and new programming languages are evolving to serve better purposes and to meet the latest digital expectations. WebAssembly is one such language that is relatively new and came into existence to meet the high demands of technology with the simplest and fastest approach. The sole purpose of this language is to provide a better web experience to users.


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What is WebAssembly?

WebAssembly is a binary-based format for stack-based VMs. It is created to deploy client and server applications on the web easily. It was created to improve the performance of web browsers for high-definition web-based applications. Its binaries are smaller in size and hence load faster. It uses common hardware capabilities to achieve speed and agility.

The sandbox execution environment can also be implemented into JavaScript to achieve memory safety. It is a programming language designed to experiment, rewrite, analyze, optimize and experiment with.

WebAssembly (WASM) can be used with the help of WebAssembly Studio. This tool allows for creating WASM projects in different languages like C, C++, Rust, Assembly Script, etc.

It helps you to code in these languages and then compiles it to WebAssembly modules. WASM modules contain functions and can import or export functions into other languages.


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Why WebAssembly is needed?

For most of the time, JavaScript has been ruling the web world. Due to its competence with third-party applications, no other web script was able to replace JavaScript in any aspect.

JavaScript is a simple scripting language that was introduced to make web browsing a little more attractive than plain text and HTML format. With the enhancements in desktop applications, web applications also needed to enhance and slowly videos, graphics, and high-definition content was added. JavaScript is the only language that was improvised with time and many APIs were added. But, today, where people need web applications like gaming, and other applications that need higher calculations and operations, JavaScript lacks to provide resources.

Where there is a need to coordinate Artificial Intelligence and physics. WebAssembly is the language that overcomes the lack of JavaScript. It does not replace JavaScript but works with it to provide better solutions to emerging VM needs.

WebAssembly brings speed, portability, and flexibility to the table. The smaller binaries are much faster to download, decode and execute even in slow networks. Being statically typed language, the compiler has a lot less work to do and hence execution becomes faster than dynamically-typed JavaScript.

JavaScript also needs to be parsed which means the plain text needs to be converted into data structures and then to binary form. WebAssembly is delivered in binary form saving time to compile the code.

Another advantage of WebAssembly is manual memory management which makes the language better performing and more reliable.


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How does WebAssembly Works?

To work with WebAssembly, a tool is required to compile source code into WebAssembly language. A modular compiler toolchain like LLUM can be used to compile different languages into WASM. To compile simpler languages like C or C++, Emscripten can be used which is a less complicated tool. To use WebAssembly Rust Nightly provides rustc that can directly compile the code into WebAssembly.
To work on WebAssembly, HTML and JS files are needed as WebAssembly does not work directly but integrates with these files to get access into APIs. Emscripten converts code into JavaScript and then an HTML file is loaded that displays the output of the WebAssembly language.
WebAssembly functions can be called in JavaScript codes and the JavaScript functions can be called in WebAssembly modules.
WebAssembly has 4 primitive variable types including integers and floats (i32, i64, f32, and f64). Passing parameters from and to in both languages is not easy. Calling functions from JavaScript also require more time and hence reduces the efficiency of the program as the system has to do setup work during each call.
For now, WASM is best to be used as an isolated language that is great to perform higher calculating operations to get better performance of web applications.


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WebAssembly vs JavaScript,Which one to choose?

Both languages have different approaches and hence have their pros and cons. Choosing one out of two can be difficult because, where WebAssembly is a fast and more reliable language, JavaScript is a highly mature language.


WebAssembly pros and cons-

Pros

  • WebAssembly is faster. Being statically typed, it takes less time in execution. The smaller binaries are also the reason for the reduced loading time of the applications.
  • Cross-Platform Support is another great feature of the language. Developers can write codes in languages other than JS like C, C++, or Rust and deploy them to JS functions.
  • WebAssembly programs are portable and work on various Operating Systems and VMs.
  • One of the prominent advantages of WebAssembly is security. It was built to provide end-users a secure web experience and allows developers to build a highly secure application.

Cons

  • WebAssembly is still a new language and lacks many features that JavaScript has acquired for 20 years. It lacks a Document object Model, Garbage collector, and APIs and relies on JavaScript for that. While using the manual approach of memory usage ensures security, a garbage collector provides many features for faster and easier programming.
  • Being a low-level language, it is difficult for new users to get adaptive to the syntax and rules of the language.
  • Detecting security issues can be confusing for browsers. 50% of the website that uses WebAssembly have security vulnerabilities.

Final Words!

WebAssembly is a maturing language that has high potential to sustain in the developer’s community. It is good to see a fresh language with an entirely new approach to work with. But for now, it cannot compete with the richness and maturity of JavaScript.

WebAssembly has many pros compared to JavaScript but there is a lot of work to be done on the language. It is great to use the language in integration with JavaScript (without which, using WASM is not possible) for complex calculative, AI, and ML operations and use JavaScript for other regular tasks and combine the usage of both languages to come up with the best web product.

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