The news first broke last week via Ars Technica that engineers at Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, and Apple have joined forces in an effort to create WebAssembly, a bytecode for browsers of the future that teases over 20 times faster performance. There have been multiple efforts in the past to speed up web applications but this project has something no other previous attempt has had: the support of all browser vendors. WebAssembly is currently only a discussion group on GitHub where future possibilities are being explored, but the W3C has already developed a special page for the project.

[image via]

[image via]

WebAssembly is a project to create a new bytecode intended to be more efficient for both desktop and mobile browsers. Broken down, it’s a machine-readable instruction set that’s faster for browsers to load than high-level languages. Currently, browsers use JavaScript to interpret code and enable functionality on websites (like dynamic content and forms for example). WebAssembly however, could bring app-like performance to web content and apps.

According to the WebAssembly design guidelines, the new file format will allow developers to compile their “code” to a binary, which will be executed inside each browser’s (Chrome, IE/Edge, Firefox, Safari) JavaScript engine. As of right now, only C and C++ code can be compiled into WebAssembly and be converted into plain JavaScript.

The team behind this new project has stated pretty clearly that this project is not meant to replace JavaScript, but be used for specific cases, mostly working alongside JS. For now, the project is mostly has “bridge the gap” intentions as it is still in very early development. None of the project’s specifications or design have been finalized yet. However, with such major developers supporting the project, it’s hard to think it will be long before it’s ready.

“While WebAssembly will, over time, allow many languages to be compiled to the Web, JS has an incredible amount of momentum and will remain the single, privileged dynamic language of the Web,” reads the official WebAssembly statement.