Home → Magazine Archive → December 2018 (Vol. 61, No. 12) → Technical Perspective: WebAssembly: A Quiet Revolution... → Abstract

Technical Perspective: WebAssembly: A Quiet Revolution of the Web

By Anders Møller

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 61 No. 12, Page 106
10.1145/3282508



When Javascript was introduced in 1995, it was intended as a small scripting language for interacting with the HTML DOM. A typical use was validating user form input or making simple animations. For many years, JavaScript programs were mostly small, and the majority of the program code in Web applications was running on the servers, not in the browsers. This changed with the advent of fast JavaScript engines like V8, which enabled a new generation of Web applications executed mostly in the browsers to provide a better user experience.

Within the last decade, commonplace JavaScript programs have grown to many thousands of lines of code, and JavaScript is used far beyond what anyone had anticipated in 1995. Despite the ongoing evolution of the language, it has been stretched to its limits. This has led to people developing compilers from other languages to JavaScript (although JavaScript is horrible as compilation target), and to language extensions and specialized runtime support (in particular, asm.js). Still, JavaScript has maintained a remarkable monopoly, being the only programming language supported by all main browsers. Until now.

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