Mozilla, Intel, Red Hat and Fastly today announced the launch of the Bytecode Alliance, a new open-source group that focuses on “creating new software foundations, building on standards such as WebAssembly and WebAssembly System Interface (WASI).”
Today, support for WebAssembly is part of all the major browser engines. Companies like Figma and Autodesk have experimented with it or are using it in production. I do not get the sense that mass adoption of the technology is near, though, and the barrier to entry is high for most developers. Indeed, today’s announcement probably marks the first time I’ve heard about WebAssemly this year.
The mission of this new group goes beyond the browser, though. It wants to establish “a capable, secure platform that allows application developers and service providers to confidently run untrusted code, on any infrastructure, for any operating system or device, leveraging decades of experience doing so inside web browsers.” The argument here is that there is plenty of potential for WebAssembly outside of the browser because it allows untrusted code components to interact with trusted code inside of a sandboxed environment. Indeed, a Mozilla spokesperson noted that WebAssembly has generated more interest from businesses that are interested in this use case than from the traditional application developers and web technologists. Hence this new alliance.
When Mozilla and others launched the WebAssembly format, Microsoft and Google were also part of that group. They are not members of the new Bytecode Alliance, though.
Some of the code the various members are contributing to the Alliance include Wasmtime, a runtime for WebAssemble and WASI, as well as Fastly’s Lucet, Intel’s WebAssembly Micro Runtime and code generator Cranelift.
“WebAssembly is changing the web, but we believe WebAssembly can play an even bigger role in the software ecosystem as it continues to expand beyond browsers,” explained Luke Wagner, Distinguished Engineer at Mozilla and co-creator of WebAssembly. “This is a unique moment in time at the dawn of a new technology, where we have the opportunity to fix what’s broken and build new, secure-by-default foundations for native development that are portable and scalable. But we need to take deliberate, cross-industry action to ensure this happens in the right way.”