Will WebAssembly replace JavaScript? Or Will WASM Make JavaScript More Valuable in Future?

Since the time WebAssembly started gaining traction, a question has arisen among the developers: Will it put an end to JavaScript? Whereas, some developers and enterprises think that WebAssembly will complement JavaScript and accelerate the web development.

What is WebAssembly?

WebAssembly (WASM) is a binary instruction format which has been built to compile high-level languages such as C, C++, Java, Python and Rust. It allows deployment on the web and server applications.

Users write the code in multiple languages to run it on the web. WebAssembly allows them to run the code on the web at a native speed.

Future of WASM and JavaScript

Mozilla developers, the ones who created WASM, define it as the code that users can run in web browsers. It provides new features and major improvements in performance.

Like JavaScript, it is also executed in a sandbox environment and exhibits the same security. But, to say that it will put an end to JS is very unrealistic. Even the creators of WASM deny such intent.

According to GitHub’s latest report, JavaScript is the most used programming language for the last several years. Also, it has the most number of contributors to public and private repositories.

JavaScript is showing no sign of slowing down and wouldn’t be replaced by anyone in the near future. Further, as the modern technologies like blockchain explode in popularity, JS will be a new age language among web developers and gain traction across industries.

Will WASM replace JavaScript?

Let’s assume that JavaScript gets replaced. Will WebAssembly be able to play all the roles of JS? Don’t forget that WASM is still a young player who debuted just a few years ago in 2015. Whereas, JavaScript is here for around a couple of decades now. It has become the ideal language for web development.

Business leaders say that it is an overstatement that WASM will replace JavaScript. What they think is that it wouldn’t remain a monopoly, and grow over time.

A limitation of JS is that it wasn’t built to be a compilation target. On the other hand, WebAssembly has been built as an efficient compilation target. It is ready to use, provides smaller payloads, rapid parsing, as well as consistency in performance.

As per the FAQ page of WebAssembly, it reduces costs by having a design that enables web browsers to use WASM inside its existing JavaScript engine. Hence, from the cost perspective, WASM should be comparable to a big new JS feature, rather than a fundamental extension of browser model.

Currently, JavaScript supports all the major browsers. To use WASM, a web development company will need to move away from the browsers that don’t support WebAssembly. Till the time WebAssembly brings support for new browsers, JavaScript ecosystem will further grow and more developers will use it for their projects.

The ecosystem of JavaScript development is very large, with most of the developers writing all their libraries and frameworks in it – Bootstrap, Angular and React to name a few. In order to overtake JS, WebAssembly will need replacement options for all these libraries and frameworks, which doesn’t seem easy.

Further, the replacement of an existing JS code to WebAssembly wouldn’t be feasible. Even if it happens, companies wouldn’t prefer it because it will be very slow while the code base in JS will be huge. JavaScript already has a lot of competitors in the market, but none of them has been able to replace it.

With time, WebAssembly will become more popular to power browser-based games, VR (virtual reality) applications and other compute-intensive tasks. It can only decrease the market share of JavaScript, but not replace the applications that are already written in JavaScript.

WebAssembly Complements JavaScript

A website development company can use WebAssembly and JavaScript together as both of these can complement each other. WebAssembly can be run alongside JS using WASM JavaScript APIs. It will load the WASM modules into a JS app and share the functionalities together.

When used together, developers get the benefit of expressiveness and flexibility of JavaScript and performance and power of WebAssembly. Therefore, WASM has the ability to move JavaScript to a scripted role. If enterprises and developers think of WebAssembly as a sidekick, it can result in an iconic pair.

Wrapping up

WebAssembly will bring a lot of improvements to the web with its core features and native speed. But it is very less likely to overtake JS. Whether you like it or not, JavaScript will continue to dominate the web development sphere.

Even the FAQ of WebAssembly states that WebAssembly will allow compilation of multiple languages on the web, but JavaScript has got an incredible amount of momentum. Thus, JS will remain the single, privileged language of the web.

Source: dev