Microsoft, Google, Intel and Mozilla want to move WebAssembly beyond the browser

Microsoft joins Bytecode Alliance to help expand WebAssembly from the browser to multiple operating systems.

Microsoft has joined the Bytecode Alliance, a group aiming to expand WebAssembly beyond the browser and JavaScript to native applications for desktop and mobile platforms. 

The Bytecode Alliance, formed by Intel, Mozilla, RedHat and Fastly in 2019, has established itself as a non-profit organization. 

The organization is now incorporated by Fastly, Intel, Mozilla and Microsoft. The alliance has gained several key members too, including Arm, DFINITY Foundation, Embark Studios, Google, Shopify, and the University of California at San Diego. 

 SEE: Hiring Kit: Python developer (TechRepublic Premium)

The alliance says it wants to address the threat of software supply chain attacks, such as the breach of SolarWinds, because it includes tools and components from many parties. 

With WebAssembly, an assembly language, developers can write code in programming languages like C++ and Rust and compile it to WebAssembly (WASM), and then run it inside a browser without rewriting that code in JavaScript first. 

WASM is supported by all major browsers but it also promises to let developers write one app that runs outside the browser on multiple operating systems.  

"These organizations share a vision of a WebAssembly ecosystem that fixes cracks in today's software foundations that are holding the industry and its software supply chains back from a secure, performant, cross-platform and cross-device future," the Bytecode Alliance said in a statement.     

"Relying on a complex supply chain of components from other parties allows a defect anywhere in that chain to compromise the security and stability of the entire program," noted Mozilla

The founding members shared a bunch of WASM tools with the Bytecode Alliance including runtimes, runtime components, and language tooling from multiple parties.  

Now with Microsoft, Google and Mozilla on board, the Bytecode Alliance has the support of three of the four major browser vendors. Safari-maker Apple is the one major browser vendor missing from the lineup. With broader support, it gives the alliance a better chance at long-term survival. 

"WebAssembly and the emerging WebAssembly System Interface (WASI) specification enable cloud-native solutions to become more secure by default and help solve computing challenges across a variety of environments, including the 'tiny edge' of systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) and microcontroller units (MCUs)," said Ralph Squillace, a Microsoft principal program manager of Azure Core Upstream and Bytecode Alliance board member. 

SEE: Programming languages: JavaScript has most developers but Rust is the fastest growing

WASI is  a system interface for WebAssembly that lets code outside of a browser talk to multiple operating systems.

Microsoft's work on WebAssembly includes its release of Blazor WebAssembly, which allows C# and .NET developers to build apps that run in the browser with WebAssembly but work like a native desktop app, aka Progressive Web Apps. 

Blazor WebAssembly is one of four flavors of Microsoft's Blazor project, which includes the supported Blazor Server render for web apps, an Electron renderer, and the recently released experimental Mobile Blazor Bindings for building native iOS and Android app using C# and .NET instead of JavaScript.