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Someday you'll code for the web in any language, and it'll run at near-native speed
WebAssembly has apparently been underway as a skunkworks project for some time and has already gained the support of developers at Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla, all three of which have previously built Asm.js optimizations into their respective browsers.
"I'm happy to report that we at Mozilla have started working with Chromium, Edge and WebKit engineers on creating a new standard, WebAssembly, that defines a portable, size- and load-time-efficient format and execution model specifically designed to serve as a compilation target for the Web," Mozilla developer Luke Wagner blogged.
Microsoft's Mike Holman was more subdued in his support for the project, saying Redmond and the other browser vendors have "come to a general agreement on a shared set of goals."
What's more, although WebAssembly is itself a binary format, the specification will include a text format that can be rendered when anyone does a View Source, preserving (at least in part) the openness of the web.
As far as language support, the initial focus will be on compiling C/C++ to WebAssembly. Once a viable backend for the LLVM compiler has been developed, work on other languages will commence – although you can expect that to be some way down the road.
To oversee the project, a new WebAssembly Community Group has been formed under the auspices of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3G), and is open for anyone to join. There's also a FAQ that gives more details on the groups plans – such as they are for now. ®