Ember + WebAssembly Just Got Way Easier

Jul 25, 2018

WebAssembly is probably the most exciting and frustrating technology to come around in a while. Ember now makes it easy.

Crossposted to Medium.


  1. Install ember-auto-import
  2. Import Wasm modules with import('path/to/wasm')
  3. That’s all the steps. You’re done!

Background + Complaining

The promise of WebAssembly is awesome: true write once, run anywhere technology, that runs in a VM that users already have (a browser!). But as is often the case, the reality is not quite that rosy. The only officially supported types are all numeric (as in you can’t pass in a string or get one back from a Wasm module). The process for loading Wasm modules is not as simple as many how-to’s would have you believe. And the debugging story is still mostly non-existent.

To fill in the gaps there’s a handful of community solutions that make things easier. The Rust and WebAssembly project aims to “facilitate high-level interactions between wasm modules and javascript” (via the wasm-bindgen package). In other words, it generates wrapper code that let’s you pass in and receive non-numeric types to your Wasm modules. Wasm-pack makes it dead simple to build and publish Rust code to easily consumed NPM packages.

Webpack recently added support for importing Wasm modules like those generated by wasm-pack. So instead of doing some sort of dance with WebAssembly.instantiateStreaming(fetch('foo'), { imports..., webpack users can just call import('foo') and work with the result just like any other imported module (albeit an asynchronous one).

So what does that have to do with Ember?

Edward Faulkner has been quietly working on a little package called ember-auto-import as a solution for easily importing node modules into Ember apps. He recently landed a patch that allows the use of dynamic import(...) statements. Since ember-auto-import uses Webpack under the hood, this happens to make using WASM modules dead simple inside an Ember app!

I made a simple Ember app to showcase how easy this is. Here’s the relevant commit where I import a Wasm module.

The only caveat I can think of is you need to make sure all the generated assets get deployed. Since it’s not javascript, it obviously can’t get rolled up into you application.js or vendor.js files. Normal ember build commands generate all the correct files, just double check your deploy scripts. 🐹

The image “Cpc464.computer” by Arpingstone is licensed under CC BY 2.0