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Developers have doubts about WebAssembly, report finds

Developers have doubts about WebAssembly, report finds

State of WebAssembly 2023 study finds mostly optimism among software developers about future adoption of Wasm, but also doubts and challenges.

Credit: Dreamstime

The uses of WebAssembly, aka Wasm, have grown far beyond its initial target of web applications, according to The State of WebAssembly 2023 report. But some developers remain skeptical.

Released September 6 by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) and SlashData, in collaboration with the Linux Foundation, the report finds mostly optimism among software developers about future adoption of Wasm for web and non-web environments.

The added flexibility and improved performance of Wasm attracts developers in a multitude of ways including faster loading times, the ability to explore new use cases and technologies, and the ability to share code between projects. Improved performance over JavaScript and efficient execution of computationally intensive tasks also were cited.

However, about 22% of participants in the report indicated pessimism about Wasm adoption for either the web or non-web environments. Further, 83% of the respondents reported challenges with Wasm including difficulties with debugging and troubleshooting, different performance between runtimes, lack of consistent developer experiences between runtimes, lack of learning materials, and compatibility issues with certain browsers.

The report finds that respondents are using WebAssembly across a wide range of software projects including data visualisation (35%), internet of things (32%, artificial intelligence (30%), games (28%), back-end services (27%), edge computing (25%), and more. While Wasm is still primarily used to develop web applications (58%), this is changing thanks to WASI (WebAssembly System Interface), which provides a modular interface for Wasm.

Findings in the report were based on a third-quarter 2023 SlashData custom survey of 255 respondents, on behalf of CNCF. Other findings of the State of WebAssembly 2023 report:

  • When migrating existing applications to Wasm, 30% of respondents experience performance benefits of more than 50%.
  • JavaScript is the most popular language used with Wasm applications. But Rust stands out in popularity in Wasm projects compared to other use cases.
  • 34% of Wasm users are currently using WASI in their projects.
  • Portability and easier development are the most important aspects that attract developers to WASI.
  • HTTP, IO/streams, and SQL are the most anticipated upcoming WASI features.

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