You could be forgiven for missing it in the noise, but yesterday Google quietly announced that it’s added experimental support for a next-generation Web standard to Chrome: WebAssembly.
WebAssembly is a binary format for the Web that’s poised to change the type of applications developers can build, as well as the way they go about it.
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For the first time, developers will be able to write in a low-level programming language for Web browsers, offering insane performance improvements in incredibly small file sizes – even better, Microsoft, Google, Mozilla and Apple are collaborating on the standard.
There’s a great in-depth explainer of what WebAssembly means for the Web here, but the gist is this: it’s a way for other languages, like C++, to get real binary support across the Web platform.
WebAssembly support landing in Chrome is a huge deal for the future of how almost everything on the Web is built and it’s finally becoming a reality.
It’s available only in Chrome’s Canary branch today, and will likely remain there for a long while, but this incredible demonstration shows off just how powerful it can be – you’re able to play a full Unity game that’s been ported to WebAssembly right in your browser.
It’s easy to quickly jump to conclusions and think that WebAssembly might fail as a standard, like Adobe Flash or Google’s Portable Native Client in the years past, but 2ality argues that because it’s a collaborative effort that works with existing frameworks it’s almost certainly going to be a winner.
If you want to start building on WebAssembly, or just test it out, you’ll need to download Chrome Canary and head to chrome://flags/#enable-webassembly. Firefox users can try it out with Nightly builds and Microsoft is working on Edge support internally as well.
➤ Experimental support for WebAssembly in V8 [V8 Blog]