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I want to believe... I always thought WebAssembly had a lot of potential, however, in practice it doesn't seem to have turned out that way.

I remember the first Unity demos appearing on these orange pages at least 4 or 5 years ago, and promptly blowing me away. But, after an eternity in JavaScript years, I still dont know what the killer app is, technically or business wise. (Side note - I encourage people to prove me wrong, in fact I'd love to be! Thats whats so engaging about discussions here. I'd love to see examples of what WebAssembly makes possible that wouldn't exist without it.)

I can tell you about a WebAssembly killer app for a small niche. lichess uses WebAssembly to run a state-of-the-art chess engine inside your browser to help you analyze games [1]. Anyone who wants to know what a super-human chess player thinks of their game can fire it up on their desktop, laptop, or even phone (not highly recommended, it's rough on your battery life).

Obviously very serious chess players will still want to install a database and engine(s) on their own computer, but for casual players who just occasionally want to check what they should have done on move eleven to avoid losing their knight it's a game changer.

[1] https://lichess.org/analysis

I think chess.com has something similar too, but not sure if it's powered by wasm.

If it's not, I'd be interested to see a speed and feature comparison between the two.

I think there might be killer apps that companies aren't publicizing, because it's part of their competitive advantage.

Example of WASM being used in a major product:


You can infer from this that it's making them 3x faster than anything a competitor can make, and probably inspired a lot of those 'Why is Figma so much more awesome than any comparable tool?' comments I remember reading on Twitter months back.

Agreed - Figma is a very good example. I stand corrected.

I read that a few days ago and just realized why Figma runs better than Miro/RealTimeBoard. I wish the Miro team is also looking to port to WASM/boost performance. I don't think it's easy though; Figma's effort started in 2017.

Adobe XD uses some Wasm also.

An example I can give:

I use WebAssembly for a few cross-platform plugins. E.g. An AR 3D rendering engine in C++ and OpenGL. With very little effort it is working in browser. No bespoke code, same business logic, etc. Saved a lot of time vs creating a new renderer for our web app.

For me it allows a suite of curated plugins which work cross-platform. The web experience is nearly just as nice as the native mobile and desktop experience. This in turn increases market growth as more of my clients prefer web vs downloading an app (which is a large blocker for my users). I also enjoy the code reuse, maintainability, etc, :)


This year Max Factor (via Holition Beauty tech) won a Webby award for in-browser AI and AR. This was used to scan a users face, analyse their features, advise them on what make up, etc, would suit them, after which the user can try it on. This would have been impossible without WebAssembly.

This tech is also used by another makeup brands beauty advisors (via WebRTC) to call a customer and in real-time advise them on their make up look, etc.

Is this tech necessary? Probably not, but it is a lot nicer than having to go to a store. Especially when we are all in lockdown :)

1) https://www.holitionbeauty.com/

2) https://winners.webbyawards.com/?_ga=2.215422039.1334936414....

3) https://www.maxfactor.com/vmua/

I build a slower version of something with the same idea 13-14 years ago in Flash for http://www.makeoversolutions.com which most of these makeup companies licensed back then.

I moved on from that a decade ago but it was a neat project at the time.

But I deployed my first integration of WASM about a month ago for PaperlessPost.com. It is a custom h264 video decoder that renders into a canvas that manages timing relative to other graphics layers over this video. This code works around a series of bugs we've found with the built in video player. It went smoothly enough that we are looking into a few other hot spots in our code that could also be improved with WASM.

One avenue for WASM might be simply polyfilling the features that are not consistently implemented across browsers.

I feel like I am looking in a mirror!

Ten years ago I did the same but in Java and JOGL (before Apple banned OpenGL graphics within Java Applets embedded within a webpage). Was used for AR Watch try on within https://www.watchwarehouse.com and Ebay. The pain of Flash and Applets still wake me up at night.

I'm also building something very similar but with the ability for custom codecs (https://www.v-nova.com/ is very good). Probably the same issues too! Could I know more about your solution?

This is really great work and exactly the kind of response I was hoping for - thank you. I wonder why tech like this is not being more widely used, for example on Amazon product pages. Especially with the well known reluctance as you mentioned of people downloading apps.

Thanks, much appreciated!

I think WebAssembly is more used than it appears, just difficult to see/tell.

A few years ago I actually tried integrating AR via WebAssembly with Amazon. We couldn't get the approval due to poor performance on Amazon fire devices (which have low end hardware). It is a shame but it is what it is.

What is disappointing/annoying is - as a CTO - it is near impossible to hire someone with WebAssembly skills. It requires an extra curious Engineer with a passion for native and web. Training is always important for a team but when going down the WebAssembly route you need to extra focused and invest more than what a typical Engineer would be allocated (E.g. Increase training from 1 day a week to 2-3). I suppose this may put people off?

> I'd love to see examples of what WebAssembly makes possible that wouldn't exist without it.

I've been playing with WebAssembly lately and the moment where it clicked for me how powerful it was was building an in-browser crossword filler (https://crossword.paulbutler.org/). I didn't write a JS version for comparison, but a lot of the speed I got out of it was from doing zero memory allocation during the backtracking process. No matter how good JS optimization gets, that sort of control is out of the question.

I also think being able to target the browser from something other than JS is a big win. 4-5 years is a long time for JS, but not a long time for language tooling; I feel like we're just getting started here.

Great work.. This is amazing! Thanks for sharing

This is brilliant, thank you!

If you’re looking for a real world example of Webassembly being used in production at a large scale for performance gains, check out Figma. Their editor is all wasm based, and is really their secret sauce.

Thank you! I just checked them out, and I stand corrected. Really an excellent design tool and very responsive. I see now that for certain applications WASM is indeed the right tool for the job.

Speedy client-side coordinate conversion in geospatial apps, thus avoiding the round-trip to the server.

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