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Firefox 52 Brings WebAssembly Support, Allowing Users to Run Complex Apps and Games



Mozilla has announced that the latest version of its Firefox browser, version 52, supports WebAssembly, a new binary format code developed by Mozilla alongside Apple, Google, and Microsoft. It essentially enables even complex applications to run faster on the browser. The company says that it expects more developers to use WebAssembly to sped up their existing Web apps. Apart from WebAssembly, the version 52 update brings along several other features to the Mozilla browser.

Talking first about WebAssembly, currently, the online versions of various games and applications are pared down versions of the originals, as the original versions require much more processing than the browser is usually able to source. However, with WebAssembly, the scenario is going to change substantially, by providing more resources to these Web apps. “We expect that WebAssembly will enable applications that have historically been too complex to run fast in browsers – like immersive 3D video games, computer-aided design, video and image editing, and scientific visualisation,” Mozilla said in its blog post.

Notably, it is not just complex apps that can make full use of WebAssembly, as existing apps that use JavaScript will also be able to reduce their loading times significantly with its implementation.

Web apps that have been written with WebAssembly will be able to run at “near-native speeds” as unlike JavaScript, all the code written by programmer is parsed and compiled before it even reaches the browser, David Bryant, Head of Platform Engineering at Mozilla, explained in his Medium post.

“Unlike other approaches that have required plug-ins to achieve near-native performance in the browser, WebAssembly runs entirely within the Web Platform,” Bryant said.

Importantly, with the help of WebAssembly, programs written in languages like C/C++ can also be ported to Web and subsequently run with near-native performance, as per Bryant.

Apart from WebAssembly, with the version 52 update, Firefox browser automatically detects captive Wi-Fi portals and informs users if there is a need to log in. “Additionally, after Firefox detects a captive portal, it replaces certificate error pages with a message encouraging you to log in,” the company said.

Further, with the new release, users will now be notified more actively with in-context alerts to inform them if a username or password field on a page is not encrypted with HTTPS. There are several other new additions that you can read about in company’s official blog post about the update.

WebAssembly is now available with Firefox (version 52) on Windows, MacOS, Linux, and Android. Even though browsers from Google and Microsoft are also expected to implement WebAssembly eventually, Firefox has now become the first company to offer it through its browser.

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