Developers at Mozilla, Google, Microsoft and Apple are working together on a new binary format that can be used to compile applications for the Web.
Long term, if it becomes a Web standard implemented in all major browsers, the new format, dubbed WebAssembly, would give developers the ability to build applications in their favorite languages, and then compile the code for execution in browsers. The significance of that flexibility is not to be underestimated as it could potentially help browser-based Web apps compete against native, downloadable applications like those for iOS and Android, which continue to remain popular in large part because of the performance they offer users.
Ultimately, Eich says the WebAssembly team is "aiming to develop the Web’s polyglot-programming-language object-file format," a significant undertaking that, if successful, could one day change the face of how applications are developed and delivered on the Web.
It's also important to note that while some of WebAssembly's most exciting use cases are in the browser and the project is billed as "portable, size- and load-time-efficient format suitable for compilation to the Web," WebAssembly's promise of a standard, performant file format that lots of languages can compile to will likely have appeal beyond the browser. As such, WebAssembly could one day also change the game for the development of server-side applications and hybrid native apps that run on devices.