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Javascript To Webassembly: Javascript Explained

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Javascript is one of the most popular and widely used programming languages in the world today. It has seen astronomical growth in recent years, and is the foundation of many modern websites, web applications, and more. With this growth, it has become increasingly important to understand how Javascript works and how it can be used to improve the performance and security of your code. In this article, we will discuss how Javascript relates to Webassembly, the benefits and drawbacks of using the two together, and how you can convert between them.

What is Javascript?

Javascript is a high-level, interpreted programming language created by Brendan Eich in 1995. It is used to program and add interactive elements to webpages. Javascript is popular due to its easy-to-learn syntax and wide range of features, such as making requests to web servers, manipulating web page elements, and creating complex user interfaces. As of 2020, Javascript is the most popular language on GitHub, with over 800k contributors.

Javascript is a versatile language, and can be used to create a variety of applications, from web-based applications to mobile applications. It is also used to create server-side applications, such as Node.js. Additionally, Javascript is used to create desktop applications, such as Electron.js. With its wide range of uses, Javascript is a powerful language that can be used to create a variety of applications.

What is Webassembly?

WebAssembly (WASM) is a compiler target-language designed to enable near-native performance while still being easy to use. It is a low-level language that is particularly well suited for heavy numerical computations or applications with tight performance requirements. Unlike Javascript, it is not interpreted but rather compiled ahead-of-time (AOT), allowing for drastically better performance for certain use cases. WebAssembly can be used in conjunction with Javascript, allowing developers to use the same codebase to target different platforms.

WebAssembly is also designed to be secure, with built-in memory safety features that prevent buffer overflows and other security vulnerabilities. Additionally, WebAssembly is designed to be portable, meaning that code written in WebAssembly can be run on any platform that supports it, without the need for any platform-specific modifications. This makes it an ideal choice for applications that need to run on multiple platforms.

Benefits of Javascript to Webassembly

Using Javascript and Webassembly together can provide a number of advantages over using Javascript alone. The main benefit is improved performance due to WebAssembly’s AOT compilation. Additionally, using Webassembly for computation-heavy tasks allows for better memory management and reduced memory usage overall. This can be useful for resource-constrained environments such as mobile devices. Using both Javascript and WebAssembly also allows developers to target multiple platforms with the same codebase.

Furthermore, WebAssembly can be used to create more secure applications, as it is designed to be sandboxed and can be used to isolate code from the rest of the application. This can help to reduce the risk of malicious code being injected into the application. Additionally, WebAssembly can be used to create more efficient applications, as it can be used to optimize code for faster execution. This can help to reduce the amount of time it takes for an application to load and run.

Drawbacks of Javascript to Webassembly

The main drawback of using Javascript and Webassembly together is the extra time and effort needed to write, maintain, and debug two separate codebases. Additionally, since WebAssembly is still relatively new, there are not many mature tools available for debugging or optimizing. Additionally, since WebAssembly runs much faster than Javascript, there is a higher risk of hard-to-catch bugs due to race conditions.

Furthermore, WebAssembly is not supported by all browsers, so developers must ensure that their code works across multiple browsers. Additionally, WebAssembly is not as flexible as Javascript, so developers may have to make compromises when writing code. Finally, WebAssembly is not as well-documented as Javascript, so developers may have to spend more time researching and understanding the language.

How to Convert from Javascript to Webassembly

Converting from Javascript to WebAssembly is relatively straightforward. It involves transforming the Javascript code into a format which WebAssembly can understand, ideally following certain best practices in order to maximize performance.

The first step is to identify which parts of the code would benefit from running as WebAssembly code instead of as Javascript. Once identified, there are several options for translating the code into the “WebAssembly Binary Format” or WABF. This includes Emscripten, a toolchain for compiling C/C++ into WebAssembly, as well as Transcrypt, a Python-to-WebAssembly compiler.

It is important to note that the code must be written in a way that is compatible with WebAssembly. This means that certain features of Javascript, such as dynamic typing, must be avoided. Additionally, the code should be optimized for size and performance, as WebAssembly code is typically much more efficient than Javascript.

Understanding the Syntax of Webassembly

As a low-level language, WebAssembly has its own unique syntax which may seem strange or unfamiliar at first. It consists of instructions that are encoded as numbers that perform basic operations on numbers or memory locations. This makes WebAssembly particularly well suited for algorithms that deal with large amounts of data and computations that require precise control over every individual operation.

Best Practices for Developing with Javascript and Webassembly

When developing applications with both Javascript and WebAssembly it’s important to follow some best practices in order to ensure maximum performance and reliability. First, the logic of the application should be split into Javascript and WebAssembly code based on what type of operations need to be performed. For example, algorithms that are dominated by numerical operations should generally be placed into the WebAssembly layer.

Second, code written in both languages should be very well optimized in order to ensure maximum performance. This means avoiding large data structures which put a strain on memory resources. Finally, proper debugging tools should always be used to ensure that there are no clashes between the two languages.

Debugging Issues when Converting from Javascript to Webassembly

When converting from Javascript to Webassembly it’s important to use proper debugging tools in order to identify any issues with the code. The most common causes of issues with code written in both languages are mismatched types or incorrect syntax. It’s also important to test both the Javascript and Webassembly code separately in order to ensure that each part works properly before attempting to combine them.

Tips for Optimizing Performance with Javascript and Webassembly

Optimizing performance with both Javascript and Webassembly requires careful attention to detail. Where possible, code should be split into separate layers in order to ensure that the most critical parts are running as efficiently as possible. Additionally, libraries such as Lodash or Underscore can be used to optimize code written in both languages in order to further reduce its execution time.

Finally, there are a number of tricks and optimizations that can be used when running both languages together. This includes using typed arrays for large datasets in order to improve memory management, using functions instead of loops for iterating over large collections of data, and using worker threads to spread computation across multiple cores.

In summary, combining Javascript and WebAssembly provides developers with an extremely powerful combination for developing modern applications. Understanding how the two languages interact and properly optimizing for performance are important for ensuring that applications run correctly and smoothly.

Sarang Sharma

Sarang Sharma

Sarang Sharma is Software Engineer at Bito with a robust background in distributed systems, chatbots, large language models (LLMs), and SaaS technologies. With over six years of experience, Sarang has demonstrated expertise as a lead software engineer and backend engineer, primarily focusing on software infrastructure and design. Before joining Bito, he significantly contributed to Engati, where he played a pivotal role in enhancing and developing advanced software solutions. His career began with foundational experiences as an intern, including a notable project at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, to develop an assistive website for the visually challenged.

Written by developers for developers

This article was handcrafted with by the Bito team.

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