Odysseus

21st July 2017 — Adrian Cochrane

WebAssembly

Another recent standard that deserves consideration is WebAssembly, as it provides web developers a closer-to-the-metal language with which they can better obfuscate their code.

This could be of great concern to me as “View Source” can become a lot less useful, and like obfuscated JavaScript it can be used to sneak proprietary software onto user’s computers. However as WebAssembly can only communicate with the user via JavaScript and can only really be used for CPU-bound tasks, I think it’s ability to restrict the end-user is quite limited.

Sure it can be combined with canvas to obfuscate away website data as a form of DRM, but you could do that already. Heck this is not dissimilar to the concept of a Single-Page WebApp.

At the sametime I don’t think it’ll be all that useful, as the applications I’ve seen mentioned for them are better suited to native applications. Web pages are near-universally I/O bound. Or if websites want to use it for decoding videos, why don’t they just distribute it in a format the browser natively understands? This is not a chore for Odysseus, GNOME Web, and other WebKitGTK based-browsers. As such I predict that WebAssembly will not take off.

As for whether this is a burden for browsers to implement, my understanding is that it’s not. WebAssembly is a trivial language to parse and interpret, and if your JavaScript engine implements basic optimizations WebAssembly will almost immediately be fully optimized. Furthermore WebKit essentially already had it implemented as a closer-to-the-metal yet cross-platform language to implement their JavaScript interpretor in.

In summary, I don’t think WebAssembly is a major threat to end-users or complication to browser engines. As such I won’t be blocking it. But I do think it’s a worthless standard that will not get any serious use.

@ 2017-07-21 11:46:38 +0000


Talk Page for WebASM — Odysseus Development Blog