.NET and WebAssembly - Is this the future of the front-end?
"The avalanche has begun, it's too late for the pebbles to vote." - Ambassador Kosh
Today in 2017, WebAssembly is absolutely a thing and you can learn about it at http://webassembly.org. I even did a podcast on WebAssembly with Mozilla Fellow David Bryant (you really should check out my podcast, I'm very proud of it. It's good.)
What is WebAssembly?
Since I work in open source .NET and since .NET Core 2.0 is cross-platform with an imminent release, it's worth exploring where WebAssembly fits into a .NET world.
Here's some projects I have identified that help bridge the .NET world and the WebAssembly world. I think that this is going to be THE hot space in the next 18 months.
WebAssembly for .NET
Despite its overarching name, this OSS project is meant to consume WASM binary files and execute them from within .NET assemblies. To be clear, this isn't compiling .NET languages' (C#, VB.NET, F#) into WebAssembly, this is for using WebAssembly as if it's any other piece of resuable compiled code. Got an existing WASM file you REALLY want to call from .NET? This is for that.
Mono and WebAssembly
One of the great things happening in the larger .NET Ecosystem is that there is more than one ".NET" today. In the past, .NET was a thing that you installed on Windows and generally feared. Today, there's .NET 4.x+ on basically every Windows machine out there, there's .NET Core that runs in Docker, on Mac, Windows, and a dozen Linuxes...even Raspberry Pi, and Mono is another instance of .NET that allows you to run code in dozens of other platforms. There's multiple "instances of .NET" out there in active development.
The Mono Project has two prototypes using Mono and WebAssembly.
The first one uses the traditional full static compilation mode of Mono, this compiled both the Mono C runtime and the Mono class libraries along with the user code into WebAssembly code. It produces one large statically compiled application. You can try this fully statically compiled Hello World here. The full static compilation currently lives here.
So that's a totally statically compiled Hello World...it's all of Mono and your app into Web Assembly. They have another prototype with a difference perspective:
The second prototype compiles the Mono C runtime into web assembly, and then uses Mono’s IL interpreter to run managed code. This one is a smaller download, but comes at the expense of performance. The mixed mode execution prototype currently lives here.
Here they've got much of Mono running in Web Assembly, but your IL code is interpreted. One of the wonderful things about Computer Science - There is more than one way to do something, and they are often each awesome in their own way!
"Blazor" - Experimental UI Framework running .NET in the browser
Here in the middle of some Razor (basically HTML with C# inline) pages, he does what looks like a call to a backend. This is C# code, but it'll run as WASM on the client side within a Blazor app.
override protected async Task InitAsync()
using (var client = new HttpClient())
var json = await client.GetStringAsync(AbsoluteUrl("/api/SampleData/WeatherForecasts"));
forecasts = JsonUtil.Deserialize<WeatherForecast>(json);
Why do this insane thing? "To see how well such a framework might work, and how much anyone would care." How far could/should this go? David Fowler already has debugging working (again this is ALL prototypes) in Visual Studio Code. Don't take my word for it, watch the video as Steve presents the concept at the NDC Conference.
Blazor as a prototype has a number of people excited, and there was a Blazor Hackthon recently that produced some interesting samples including a full-blown app.
At this point it's clear that everyone is prototyping and hacking and enjoying themselves.
What do YOU think about WebAssembly?
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