31 December 2023

Who is Using WebAssembly?

As we navigate the digital landscape, technologies such as WebAssembly (WASM) are pushing the boundaries of what's possible in web development. One company that has capitalized on WASM's potential is Figma. This blog post provides a deep dive into WASM, its real-world applications, including Figma's case, and the latest trends from the State of WebAssembly 2023 survey.

WebAssembly, designed to complement JavaScript, optimizes performance for computation and memory-intensive tasks. Its features have made it an attractive tool to organizations keen on delivering top-tier performance to their users. WASM supports high-level languages like C++, Rust, and even Swift and Zig, as highlighted in the 2023 survey.

The 2023 survey reveals fascinating trends in language preferences among WASM developers. While Rust and JavaScript continue to lead, the growing interest in languages such as Swift and Zig indicates a diversifying ecosystem. The survey also highlights a strong desire among developers to use Zig, Kotlin, and C#, even though these languages are currently employed less frequently.



Case Study: Figma's journey with WebAssembly

Figma, a browser-based interface design tool, initially used asm.js to run its C++ code within browsers. However, the efficiency of this approach wasn't optimal for handling Figma's large documents and robust 2D WebGL rendering. The pivotal decision to switch to WebAssembly (WASM) resulted in a transformative performance improvement, providing a 3x increase in speed, according to Figma's co-founder Evan Wallace.

One of the most significant impacts of this transition was on Figma's app load time, crucial for users frequently switching between large design documents. The use of WASM resulted in a more than 3x improvement in initial app load times and rendering of designs. This substantial upgrade marked a turning point for Figma in terms of user experience and response times.

However, this path of innovation wasn't without challenges. Figma encountered issues with WASM support in Chrome, one of the most popular browsers. Despite these hurdles, Figma's team agilely navigated the difficulties, underscoring the need for resilience and adaptability when adopting advanced technologies like WASM.

Figma's journey with WebAssembly provides an insightful real-world example of leveraging WASM's potential. Despite initial challenges, the significant performance improvements that Figma achieved continue to inspire other companies to explore the benefits of WASM within their unique contexts.


The Landscape & Future of WebAssembly

Revealing fascinating applications of WASM, the 2023 survey showcases how diverse industries leverage this versatile technology. Additionally, real-world usage from companies like Autodesk, Shopify, and even in gaming with Doom 3, further underscores its vast applicability.

Autodesk: Enhancing User Accessibility
Autodesk, a leading 3D design, engineering, and entertainment software company, relied on WASM to bring their popular AutoCAD software to the web. By porting their previously desktop-bound C++ codebase to the web using WASM, users can now access AutoCAD directly from their web browsers, eliminating the need for software installation.

Shopify: Ensuring Secure Code Execution
Shopify, a prominent e-commerce platform, turns to WASM to securely execute custom scripts for their online stores. By running these scripts in a sandboxed environment, Shopify can maintain high performance while ensuring the security and integrity of their platform.

Doom 3: Gaming in the Browser
As a testament to WASM's capability, the gaming industry also benefits from this powerful tool. Doom 3, a popular video game, was compiled to WebAssembly as a proof of concept. The successful implementation allows the complex game to be played directly in the browser, highlighting the potential of WASM to revolutionize gaming experiences.


WebAssembly's evolution, as depicted through Figma's transformative journey, the insights from the 2023 survey, and real-world applications in companies like Autodesk, Shopify, and Doom 3, reaffirms its potential to reshape the web's future. Despite challenges encountered during its growth phase, this innovative technology continues to advance, promising a more efficient and secure web environment.

As we see WASM's vast applicability unfold, it is clear that the technology is more than just a transitory trend. It is an exciting frontier for web development, offering impressive possibilities for companies and developers alike.

However, the evolution of WebAssembly is a collective effort. We look forward to hearing your thoughts and insights on this topic. We invite you to share your experiences, ideas, and questions on the X platform. Your input will enrich our collective understanding of WebAssembly and its potential. Let's continue this conversation and explore together the boundless capabilities WASM has to offer.


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