webassembly vs javascript

Webassembly vs JavaScript : Which is Better?

Two powerful technologies are shaping the future of online applications and experiences. The two are WebAssembly and JavaScript. WebAssembly, introduced in 2017, represents a binary instruction format promising high performance and efficient compilation for web apps, bringing competition to the long-established dominance of JavaScript, a language that has existed since 1995.

With its versatility and ubiquity, JavaScript has been the basis of web development, powering interactive and dynamic content across billions of web pages. According to the 2021 Stack Overflow Developer Survey, JavaScript continues to be the widely used programming language for the ninth consecutive year, with 69.7% of professional developers using it in their projects. It is flexible with lots of libraries and frameworks, offering a great tool to developers.

On the other hand, WebAssembly is a great alternative for performance-critical applications. It is a portable compilation targeted by high-level languages like C, C++, and Rust. It facilitates the running of code at near-native speed, which is good for intensive computation apps like graphics rendering, video editing, and games.

Comparing WebAssembly and JavaScript is not all about supremacy wars but a reflection of the growing demands and needs of the web development community. This article addresses both technologies’ uniqueness, strengths, weaknesses, and ideal use cases. As a web developer, you will comprehensively understand how the two coexist and compete in the development environment to help decide on which one will be appropriate. The choice will depend on the project at hand.

Overview of WebAssembly (Wasm)

WebAssembly (often abbreviated as WASM) is a recent addition to the web developer’s toolkit, conceived from a need to address JavaScript’s limitations in performance-intensive applications. We can trace the beginning of WebAssembly to efforts by major tech companies to create a compact binary instruction format that executes at near-native speed or serving as a low-level virtual machine (VM). We can agree that JavaScript is not optimized for every scenario, particularly those requiring high performance, like 3D gaming, music streaming, or video editing. Major browser vendors like Apple, W3C, Mozilla, Google, and Microsoft came together with the intention of improving web performance and enabling the execution of high-performance apps. The design of WebAssembly gives it the attributes of a compiled language.

The launch of the initial version of WebAssembly happened in 2017 and was created as an open standard by the major browser vendors. The major aim of WASM was to efficiently execute modern browser-based applications at high-performance levels. Developers are free to write code using such programming languages as C#, Rust, C, C++, etc., before compiling the code into WebAssembly bytecode for direct execution within any browser. This allows the execution of complex and computationally intensive duties at near-native speeds.

The features of WebAssembly

There are unique features related to WASM. Let’s delve into the understanding some of them:

Webassembly and JavaScript

  • Performance

We have already seen that the WASM code executes at the near-native speed because it’s compiled into a binary format that the machine can run directly. This feature is particularly beneficial for apps that require high computational power, such as video games, graphic rendering, and complex simulations. WebAssembly’s pre-compiled code allows for faster startup and execution, making web apps feel more responsive and fluid.

  • Portability

The design of WebAssembly is platform-independent, meaning that code written once can be executed on any device, operating system, or web browser that supports WASM. Such universality ensures that developers can build apps accessible to a wide audience without necessarily tailoring the app to specific platforms. Portability is a good way to ensure the development process is smooth.

  • Security

WASM improves security by running code in a controlled, sandboxed environment within the specific web browser. Such an isolation feature prevents the code from accessing or modifying the system outside the sandbox, protecting the user’s system from potential harm.

  • Interoperability

The ability to interoperate seamlessly with JavaScript is one feature that makes WASM unique. It is easy to import WebAssembly modules into JavaScript apps, letting developers leverage WASM’s performance benefits for computationally intensive jobs while exploring JavaScript’s flexibility for UI and business logic. You can easily integrate and transition between new and old WASM web ecosystems.

  • Language agnostic

WebAssembly is designed to be language-agnostic, allowing developers to create code using programming languages such as C, C++, C#, Rust, and more. A developer can choose the appropriate language to meet their project needs, taking advantage of existing codebases, libraries, and expertise.


  • Boosted Performance

WASM code runs very fast since it runs near-machine speed and leverages the hardware abilities. It is the best option for apps requiring high performance, like simulations, video editing, scientific computations, and gaming apps.

  • Universal reach (Cross-platform architectures)

Thinking of running code on the web across various environments without any problems? WASM is the solution. It can run on different architectures and platforms like ARM, x86, etc., increasing its portability.

  • Fortifying security

The presence of a sandboxed environment within which the WASM code runs offers an extra security layer, making your code safe from any outside danger. The environment blocks malicious or unauthorized code, ensuring user data and system integrity are well-positioned.

  • Enhancing Interoperability

WebAssembly can seamlessly integrate with JavaScript, allowing them to work together in perfect sync. This means developers can leverage the large repertoire of JavaScript libraries and frameworks, combining them with the raw performance of WebAssembly. Such collaboration brings great opportunities for using great tools to implement dynamic UI elements or complex calculations.

  • Speeds up load times

WASM files are smaller than JavaScript, a determining factor for faster load times in web apps, especially where the internet connection is slow or the bandwidth is limited.

Disadvantages of WASM

While WebAssembly offers many advantages, it also faces several challenges. Here’s a summary of the key disadvantages developers might face:

  • Steep Learning Curve

Adopting WebAssembly is a huge challenge to developers who are used to high-level languages like JavaScript since it relies on lower-level programming languages like C++, C# or Rust. One must know system-level concepts, which can prove hectic when implementing code.

  • Debugging Difficulties

Debugging WebAssembly code can be difficult since the code is not in a human-readable format. Although there are tools to debug WASM, they are still evolving.

  • Concerns Over Code Size

In some instances, WASM files can become larger than highly optimized JavaScript code. Such a discrepancy negatively affects load times, especially with slower internet connectivity.

  • Browser Compatibility Issues

WASM may have challenges of handling full older browser compatibility. Developers may be forced to execute fallback methods or additional mechanisms for compatibility.

  • Indirect DOM Access

WASM has no direct interaction with the Document Object Model (DOM); it communicates via JavaScript to manipulate the web page. Such an approach causes delays and affects performance whenever there is a need for high-speed DOM manipulation.

Overview of JavaScript

JavaScript has been around since the mid-90s, a period that saw a lot of digital innovations. We define it as a high-level programming language that has supported many web development projects since its inception in 1995. The language emerged from the minds at Netscape. JavaScript has grown from adding interactivity or dynamism to static HTML pages and powering simple animations to facilitating the creation of complex web applications. Web browsers execute JavaScript on the client side.

Since it is an interpreted language, the execution of JavaScript is line by line, easing the process of writing and debugging. Developers take advantage of its dynamism to easily create responsive and interactive UIs. All the main browsers support this language, making it the epicenter of modern web development and a good option for creating web apps.

The features that define JavaScript

JavaScript vs Webassembly

JavaScript is like the lingua franca of web development and has unique features that make it an indispensable tool for developers. Let’s see these features making JavaScript uniquely powerful in web development.

  • Approachable and Simple Learning Curve

Take a situation where you walk into a party and happen to know everyone by name and some bits about them. That is the case with JavaScript when it comes to programming languages. It has a simple and flexible syntax that welcomes newcomers and is robust for seasoned developers. JavaScript’s flexibility allows for various coding styles, from functional to object-oriented, letting developers bring out complex ideas in an intuitive way. The ease of use fastens learning and experimentation, leading to more creativity and innovation when carrying out web projects.

  • Has a wider adoption

JavaScript has a rich ecosystem comprising libraries (like jQuery and React), frameworks (like Angular and Vue), and several other tools streamlining the development process. Having such an extensive support network allows the language to enjoy wide adoption, speeds up the web & software development cycle, and provides solutions to common (and uncommon) problems within a few clicks. You can use the language for web projects of all sizes.

  • Mastery of DOM

JavaScript’s relationship with the DOM (Document Object Model) is very direct. It can easily manipulate various web page elements, allowing for dynamic content updates with no need to refresh the page. Direct access is powerful for interactive features like animations, form validations, and content updates, improving user experience by making web pages react in real-time to user actions.

  • Server-side features

The onset of Node.js made JavaScript grow beyond the confines of the browser, and developers started using it for server-side development. Developers can use JavaScript across the full stack to create both client-side and server-side components of web apps. It streamlines the development process where similar language and data formats (like JSON) are utilized throughout, making it easy for the front end and back end to communicate and for full-stack development to come out uniquely.

  • Facilitates Rapid Prototyping

We have already seen that JavaScript is an interpreted language, meaning it can run directly in the browser without compiling. This feature facilitates rapid prototyping and immediate feedback on code changes. Developers get a quick way of iterating their ideas, testing functionality, and user interactions in real time, a great way of accelerating the development process. You can easily refine concepts before the final implementation.


  • It is easy to learn and use

JavaScript has a simple design, and the syntax is intuitive, encouraging beginners to programming and expert developers to develop complex applications. The ease of learning welcomes all, lowering the barrier to entry into web development and enjoying a smoother learning curve.

  • Widespread adoption & support

JavaScript has been extensively adopted, leading to a thriving, rich ecosystem of tools, frameworks, and libraries to meet development needs. It is easy to get solutions that quicken the development process.

  • DOM manipulation

JavaScript allows for DOM manipulation, and developers can seamlessly alter web page elements, creating interactive and dynamic user experiences that engage and retain visitors. Direct manipulation facilitates web applications reacting instantly to user inputs (handling events), enhancing interactivity and responsiveness.

  • Full-Stack Development using a Single Language

You can use JavaScript to execute client-side scripting and server-side applications. Developers can wield JavaScript across the entire development stack (both front-end and back-end).

  • Swift Prototyping and Agile Development

JavaScript promotes rapid prototyping and iterative development. Developers can easily test ideas and make quick adjustments based on feedback.

Disadvantages of JavaScript

  • Performance

Regarding computationally intensive operations, JavaScript is slower since it has to be interpreted line by line. In this case, WASM is faster.

  • The quality of the code

As projects expand in scope and complexity, the code can be messy, and maintenance becomes challenging. This complexity can slow development, causing teams to become frustrated and extending timelines.

  • Security concerns

The power of JavaScript to execute on the client side brings a shadow of security concerns to the users. Without meticulous validation and code securing, applications may become vulnerable to attacks like cross-site scripting (XSS) or other malicious exploits. The openness of JavaScript could be the gateway for security threats.

  • Inconsistent browser support

Despite JavaScript being universally supported across different browsers, any slight discrepancies in how browsers interpret JavaScript may result in cross-platform compatibility problems. Such compatibility issues can lead to development, testing, and maintenance complications.

  • Scalability concerns

As JavaScript applications grow, the codebase becomes huge. This can lead to increased load times and slow performance, which can cause a negative user experience.

WebAssembly Use Cases

  • Good for performance-intensive apps involving video processing, high-end simulations, or complex calculations.
  • Codebase portability by facilitating the reuse of existing codebases in Rust, C, and C++ on the web without requiring complete rewrites.
  • Intensive data processing like scientific simulations, image & video processing, and data visualization.
  • Creating immersive virtual reality and augmented reality directly within the browser.
  • Developing crypto and blockchain apps
  • Multimedia and gaming apps gain more from WASM due to their need for smooth and quality rendering

JavaScript Use Cases

  • You can use JavaScript to create dynamic user interfaces
  • Combine JavaScript with modern frameworks to build single-page applications for an amazing user experience
  • Good for web apps with tight deadlines and require rapid development cycles
  • The best option for full-stack development for server-side and client-side


Choosing between WebAssembly and JavaScript will depend on each use case. Both have unique strengths and are suited for specific use cases. WebAssembly does better in performance-critical applications and allows for code portability. On the other hand, JavaScript is easily accessible with a rich ecosystem and broader support, making it strong for general-purpose development. As a developer, you make a choice depending on your knowledge of each and your specific project needs.

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Written by:

Stuti Dhruv

Stuti Dhruv is a Senior Consultant at Aalpha Information Systems, specializing in pre-sales and advising clients on the latest technology trends. With years of experience in the IT industry, she helps businesses harness the power of technology for growth and success.

Stuti Dhruv is a Senior Consultant at Aalpha Information Systems, specializing in pre-sales and advising clients on the latest technology trends. With years of experience in the IT industry, she helps businesses harness the power of technology for growth and success.