The Bytecode Alliance Wants WebAssembly To Go Beyond The Web And Into Operating Systems


The Bytecode Alliance is a non-profit group consisting a number or companies working together to secure new software foundations.

Works include standards such as WebAssembly and WebAssembly System Interface (WASI).

Formed by Intel, Mozilla, RedHat and Fastly in 2019, the alliance has since gained several more key members, including Arm, DFINITY Foundation, Embark Studios, Google, Shopify, the University of California at San Diego, and Microsoft.

Originally, the Bytecode Alliance is committed to establishing a capable, secure platform that allows application developers and service providers to confidently run untrusted code, on any infrastructure, for any operating system or device, leveraging decades of experience doing so inside web browsers.

But this time, it sees things beyond that.

Bytecode Alliance

The alliance said that it wants to address the threat of software supply chain attacks, such as the SolarWinds breach, because it includes the exploitation of tools and components used by many parties.

To do that, the alliance aims to being its projects beyond the web, and into operating systems.

WebAssembly is an assembly language, in which it allows developers to write code in programming languages like C++ and Rust, to then compile it to WebAssembly (WASM), in order to run it inside a web browser without having to rewriting that code in JavaScript first.

This is made possible because WASM is supported by all major browsers.

But with this, the Bytecode Alliance wants it beyond web browsers, knowing that WASM also allows developers to write one app that runs outside the browser on multiple operating systems.

This can be done through WASI, a system interface for WebAssembly that lets code outside of a browser talk to multiple operating systems.

When the news came, Microsoft has just joined the board.

"WebAssembly and the emerging WebAssembly System Interface (WASI) specification enable cloud-native solutions to become more secure by default and help solve computing challenges across a variety of environments, including the 'tiny edge' of systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) and microcontroller units (MCUs)," said Ralph Squillace, a Microsoft principal program manager of Azure Core Upstream and Bytecode Alliance board member.

"These organizations share a vision of a WebAssembly ecosystem that fixes cracks in today's software foundations that are holding the industry and its software supply chains back from a secure, performant, cross-platform and cross-device future," the Bytecode Alliance said in a statement, in a call for new members.

"Relying on a complex supply chain of components from other parties allows a defect anywhere in that chain to compromise the security and stability of the entire program," noted Mozilla on its own blog post.

"We aim to continue growing the Alliance in the coming months, and encourage other like-minded organizations to apply."

"We have a real opportunity to change how software is built, and in doing so, enable small teams to build big things that are both secure and fast. Achieving the elusive trifecta — easy composition, defect isolation, and high performance — requires both the right technology and a coordinated effort across the ecosystem to deploy it in the right way. Mozilla believes that WebAssembly has the right technical ingredients to build a better, more secure Internet, and that the Bytecode Alliance has the vision and momentum to make it happen," closed Mozilla.

With Microsoft joining the alliance, it is on the same boat as Google and Mozilla.

What this means, the Bytecode Alliance has the support of three of the four major browser vendors, with Safari-maker Apple as the one major browser vendor missing from the list.

The founding members have shared a number of WASM tools with the Bytecode Alliance including runtimes, runtime components, and language tooling from multiple parties.