The Road Ahead: Insights from Wasm I/O on the Future of Web Assembly

The Road Ahead: Insights from Wasm I/O on the Future of Web Assembly

The inaugural Wasm I/O conference took place last month, bringing together industry leaders and experts in WebAssembly to share their insights on the future of the technology. As Flaki, one of our developer advocates, wrote to the rest of the team:

It was a really good conference... and worth watching out for the 2024 edition.

It was also an opportunity for some of the Suborbital team members to meet in person for the first time, after having worked remotely for so long!

The theme of the conference felt less about the destination of WebAssembly, but the journey. The speakers shared their experiences and ideas on how WebAssembly can be used outside the browser to improve the performance, security, and scalability of applications. Additionally, the discussion of additions, proposals and evolving standards to the WebAssembly pointed to an exciting future. It felt like a sneak preview!

Some Personal Talk Highlights

I'd like to share some personal highlights from the conference. Attending was not just informative, but also an incredibly enjoyable experience. Everyone was friendly, welcoming, and eager to share their knowledge and expertise. Even the "big names" were approachable, creating a truly warm, inviting, and special experience that highlighted the inclusive and supportive nature of the WebAssembly community.

The conference kicked off with a dynamic musical intro, followed by Tyler McMullen from Fastly presenting the first talk: an overview of server-side WebAssembly. Tyler covered both WebAssembly's history and its recent advances such as the Component Model. Later, Angel De Miguel and Rafael Fernández López from VMware demoed the Wasm Workers Server project, showcasing how it leverages the power of WebAssembly to create serverless applications across multiple programming languages. This talk in particular reminded me a lot of the work we've been doing at Suborbital on SE2!

Other talks offered inspiring insights into advancements in the WebAssembly world! Vivek Sekhar from Google showcased their use of WebAssembly Garbage Collection for mobile development, specifically for Flutter (Dart) and Kotlin, while Roberto Vidal from Stackblitz gave an invigorating field report on how they used WebAssembly Threads in their Web Containers project. Dan Gohman from Fastly provided insights into the WASI Preview2 and how it goes beyond POSIX APIs, while Cosmonic's Bailey Hayes paired with Microsoft's Dan Chiarlone to showcase the wasi-cloud proposals and a cool block-based editing tool for Wasm module interfaces. These stood out to me as a reminder of the ever-expanding set of possibilities being unlocked through the power of WebAssembly.

The incomparable Philippe Charriére from GitLab demonstrated how Extism can give Java “superpowers” with Wasm. Meeting him in person after having collaborated in the past was a true joy. Jeff Charles from Shopify introduced Javy, a toolchain that makes it possible to run JavaScript inside WebAssembly. This talk was a delight, as we’ve been using Javy in production at Suborbital, too!

Roberto Vidal on stage talking about "Our Quirky Wasm + Threads use case"

Finally, our very own Oscar Spencer demoed concurrent WebAssembly with Lunatic and Grain, showing how Lunatic, a lightweight runtime for WebAssembly, can be used to create concurrent applications and how he built a UI library with Grain.

In addition to talks and workshops, there were also panel discussions going over using containers and Wasm modules, as well as strategies for making Wasm more approachable. Yours truly had the joy of collaborating with Sylwia Vargas from Stackblitz on running the latter panel, and I found it a hugely rewarding experience. Hearing hands-on insights and experiences from folks who are starting, have deep knowledge of, and carry a background in developer education for WebAssembly provided a conversation that I felt really lifted spirits as the conference started drawing to a close.

Left to right: Ramón, Philippe, Oscar and Sylwia on stage having a panel discussion

Overall, Wasm I/O was a great opportunity for industry leaders and experts to come together and share their insights on the future of Web Assembly, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to go. We're already looking forward to the 2024 edition of the conference!