You’ve heard about HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. But, what is all this new chatter about WebAssembly? 

In short, WebAssembly is the newest web language, brought to the world by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). 

This new official web standard can be run in modern web browsers and offers a safe, low-level assembly-like language with a compact binary format that provides “efficient execution and compact representation of code on modern processors including in a web browser,” according to a WC3 press release. It also runs alongside JavaScript, and also makes it possible for languages like C/C++ and Rust to run on the web.

In other words, WebAssembly is a modern and safe way of enabling high-performance applications on the web when using Open Web Platform technologies. It provides a smart way to run code written in various languages on the web at near-native speed.

This article will offer a quick look at the benefits of WebAssembly and how you can learn it.

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What Are the Benefits of WebAssembly?

The purpose of WebAssembly is to provide a virtual instruction set architecture that allows high-performance applications. High-performance applications that can use WebAssembly include things like video, audio codecs, graphics, 3D, multi-media, games,  cryptographic computations, and portable language implementations.

The main benefits of WebAssembly are as follows:

  • Fast and efficient. WebAssembly is encoded in a binary format that executes at near-native speed on a wide range of platforms.
  • Secure. With advances in machine learning and AI, maintaining safety is key. WebAssembly has a memory-safe, sandboxed execution environment that can be implemented inside existing JavaScript virtual machines. If embedded in the web, WebAsdsembly uses the same security policies of the browser. 
  • Possible to debug. WebAssembly is printed in textual format, making debugging, testing, optimizing, learning, teaching, and writing programs by hand possible.
  • Open. WebAssembly is part of the open web platform, and also supports non-web embeddings.
  • Enhances web performance.  WebAssembly enables near-native performance, optimized load time, improved streaming capabilities, and a compilation target for existing code bases. Additionally, a web page can execute and code can download simultaneously.
  • Hardware, language, and platform-independent. WebAssembly works with all modern architectures, devices, and embedded systems, and doesn’t favor one language, programming model, or object model over another. Additionally, it can be implemented on browsers, stand-alone systems, and in other environments.
  • Compact. WebAssembly has a binary format. This format is fast to transmit because it is much smaller than typical text or native code formats.

These are the main benefits, but the list of reasons why you would want to use WebAssembly is robust. For a more comprehensive look into all the advantages of WebAssembly, check out the WebAssembly Core Specification document.

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How Do You Learn WebAssembly?

When it comes to learning WebAssembly, there are a few typical prerequisites—no matter what your learning preferences are. 

Before diving headfirst into WebAssembly, you should already be a programmer that understands JavaScript in the Browser environment. If you don’t have this knowledge, then back up and get a working knowledge of JavaScript. Additionally, you should be capable of basic Command Line (Terminal) usage.

Another helpful prerequisite is to have experience with C/C++. If you don’t have this experience, it’s typically not too much of a problem as many training courses will teach you this in addition to learning WebAssembly.

One of the best ways to learn WebAssembly is to take an online coding course from one of the many online learning platforms like Udemy. There is also plenty of free supplemental material on YouTube and guides from popular developer websites like Mozilla. 

Let’s take a deeper look at both options.

What to look for when taking a paid WebAssembly course

If you opt for a paid course, find one that first provides an in-depth look into what WebAssembly is and why it’s so powerful. Before you start learning the techniques, you’ll want to understand why you would want to learn WebAssembly over, or in addition to, HTLM, CSS, and JavaScript. A good course will offer you this information.

You’ll also want to find a course that provides an organized and detailed look into how WebAssembly works. This includes how WebAssembly allows you, essentially, to do more with less, or how it enables high-level applications on a low-level infrastructure.

Finally, find a course that helps you create WebAssembly modules from scratch, teaches you the latest web development technology, and that matches your current developer proficiency level.

Remember, when you pay for a course, you shouldn’t have to do any of the hard work yourself. The course should take you from step one to being proficient in WebAssembly in an organized fashion.

What are some good free resources for learning WebAssembly?

If you would rather save the money and teach yourself via developer websites, it’s important to remember that you will have to do additional work to find the most relevant information and sort the information yourself.

To help you get started, here is a quick list of helpful resources:

  • W3. What better place to learn WebAssembly than to look to the organization that created it? W3 provides a core specification document with loads of valuable information. You’ll glean insight into the design goals, scope, security considerations, structure, validation, execution, numerics, binary format, text format, and more. Thankfully, this manual is free and well-organized.
  • Codelabs. Codelabs is another excellent source if you’re looking for quick training. They offer a 60-minute training that helps you get the dependencies, build a pure C-model, instantiate and the Game of Life with JavaScript, and more. It’s imperative to remember that you should have some working knowledge of developer basics before taking this course.
  • Mozilla guides. Mozilla guides are another fantastic resource if you’re looking to learn WebAssembly from resources from the internet. Guides include things like WebAssembly topics, compiling a new C/C++ module to WebAssembly, compiling an existing C/C++ module to WebAssembly, compiling from Rust to WebAssembly, loading and running WebAssembly code, using the WebAssembly JavaScript API, understanding WebAssembly text formats, and more. This is a great resource if you’re looking to spruce up knowledge of WebAssembly while using one or more particular types of languages.

There are several other free online training resources, but these three options will give you an excellent place to start.

Looking to the Future

The introduction of WebAssembly is an exciting new addition to the web and an excellent way to help developers do more with less.

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Ashley R. Cummings is a professional freelance writer specializing in SaaS, tech, and advertising/marketing. In a previous life, she was a Russian teacher at Brigham Young University, a corporate trainer, and a grad student—all at the same time. When she’s not writing, you can find her traveling the world with her 2 kids and husband, reading poetry or taking a deep dive into the fabulous world of comedy. Connect with her on Twitter at @ashleyrcummings.