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OPLIN 4cast #444: Assembly language for the web

Posted in 4cast

computer codeWarning: This 4cast posting is going to get technical. But hang with us a minute, with a little bit of introductory information, we can probably get through this. In recent years, there has been a tendency for programmers to write “native apps” for a particular piece of hardware, especially a particular smartphone operating system, so they could make the device do complex things online that would not happen smoothly in a web browser built to run on any operating system. So the announcement last week that the major web browsers have come together to develop a new web language that can allow browsers to perform as well as native apps was big news for programmers, and could very well lead to a simpler, more standardized web experience for the rest of us, too.

  • What Mozilla’s WebAssembly means: More powerful web apps (ReadWrite | Adriana Lee)  “Much of today’s Web was made with JavaScript, the Web development language created in 1995 by Brendan Eich, formerly of Netscape and Mozilla. Without it, static webpages would stretch out endlessly before our bored eyeballs. Instead, we now have dynamic features, from simple games and animations, to bookmark applets and full-blown Web apps. JavaScript is not the only game in town, but it has been the most popular. Now WebAssembly aims to improve upon it, both in power and ease.”
  • Meet WebAssembly: Microsoft, Google, and Firefox’s alternative to JavaScript (NetworkWorld | Andy Patrizio)  “The problem is that JavaScript is a text language that has to be parsed and executed by interpretation, which often makes the apps slow as they get complex. The idea behind WebAssembly is to provide developers with a single language target for web apps that will hopefully become a web standard. With Google, Microsoft, Firefox, and the team behind the WebKit browser (which is used in Apple’s Safari), there’s a good chance of that happening.”
  • WebAssembly – New standard for powerful and faster web apps (The Hacker News | Swati Khandelwal)  “WebAssembly will introduce a new file format that will allow developers to compile their code to a binary notation, which will then be executed inside each browser’s (e.g. Chrome, Firefox, IE/Edge, Safari) JavaScript engine. If introduced as a standard implemented in all web browsers, WebAssembly could surely bring app-like performance to Web content as well as applications. Preliminary tests already show that the binary representation is 23 times faster to parse than similar JavaScript applications optimized through Mozilla’s widely supported asm.js for browsers….”
  • The secret alliance that could give the Web a massive speed boost (CNET | Stephen Shankland)  “Today, it’s not unusual to run processor-taxing programs as native apps on your tablet, phone or PC – for example, Adobe’s photo-editing software Lightroom. But running a browser-based alternative, such as, has its advantages. A programmer, for instance, can write one Web-based app and have it run on any operating system, since you need only the browser. That programmer liberation could help loosen the grip that Apple and Google have on the technology industry today with their iOS and Android operating systems, where native apps rule.”

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