Why is wasm important?
Because Wasm is so much closer to the hardware, it offers a level of performance that is barely distinguishable from native apps. This opens the web to a new class of performance-critical applications. If it runs on your desktop, it can run in the browser with no noticeable performance slowdown.
Do we need more web performance?
There will always be an argument that some apps are simply best for desktop use. However, the web offers its own advantages, especially around wide distribution.
Publishing your app on the web will give you the widest possible audience. Anyone can access it from any device. This increases the convenience for your users and means that you have to maintain one codebase.
The real question isn’t whether we need more web performance: instead, we should ask ourselves whether we need more applications on the web. To answer that question, let’s look at high-featured sites that Wasm have already adopted.
AutoCAD is computer aided design software for architects and engineers. The latest web version debuted at Google I/O in 2018. It uses Wasm to consume components of the existing desktop codebase as is. Some of the code is 35 years old, but now runs in the browser.
These very complex applications could not previously exist on the Internet. If they did, they received heavy performance penalties compared to their desktop counterparts. Wasm is the architecture needed to complete the web’s transition from document-oriented pages to a complete application platform. You can even play Doom 3!
Increase developer choice
That situation has now changed. WebAssembly is a low-level format into which other languages can be compiled. C, C++, C#, Java, Python, Rust and many more are able to run WebAssembly modules. This gives developers many more options when creating code for the web.
Enabling code reuse
Wasm allows you to recompile your DLL targeting WebAssembly. The the same code becomes accessible in the browser. Wasm reduces waste and duplication of engineering by letting you use what you already have.
WebAssembly is easily dismissed as an obscure technology with little relevance to today’s web apps. Wasm really focuses on the web of tomorrow, where desktop-class apps will run with native performance.
Here, in 2021, WebAssembly adoption remains relatively low. Projects using it have reported success – all you need to do is try Figma or Google Earth to appreciate Wasm’s standard of performance. You will likely see more of Wasm in the coming years as both new and old apps are brought into the browser.