Emulation in the Browser adds WebAssembly

Since we introduced our approach to Emulation in the Browser (now simply called The Emularity) back in 2013, there’s always been plans to continually improve the experience and advance the various web technologies that make it happen.

As of today, the Internet Archive now has a majority of emulated platforms running in WebAssembly.

What is WebAssembly?

Webassembly (or WASM) is meant to be a replacement for the “executed programs in the browser” aspects of Javascript. It is designed from the ground up to be open, widely supported, and taking into account all the lessons learned from 20 years of Javascript. The benefits include speed advantages, improvements in the code size and transfer, and being much easier to debug. It is a result of years of work, and can almost be considered a “do-over” from the lessons learned by Javascript.

What do I need to do?

You actually don’t need to do much at all! WebAssembly, if it’s enabled in your browser, will just start being how the program loads when you emulate something at the Internet Archive. (The loader will mention a “WASM Binary” when it’s loading up your emulation.) If you don’t have WASM or you’ve disabled it, the usual Javascript loading will happen, as it always has. There is support for WASM in the Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Brave and Edge browsers.

Our DOS, Windows, and Macintosh emulations are still running the older system with Javascript as the language. WASM support is now in places like the Console Living Room, Internet Arcade, and our support for platforms like the Apple II or the ZX Spectrum.

Also, if this is the first time you’ve become aware we’re emulating over 80,000 software titles in the browser.. well, you have a lot of software history to look forward to.

Thanks to Dan Brooks and everyone on the Emularity team for helping to advance us to the next level, as well as the many people working on the WebAssembly standard, to ensure software history is one click away.

We’re always interested in bug reports, or noticing strangeness, so definitely mail me at jscott@archive.org if you run into issues or want more information.

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One Response to Emulation in the Browser adds WebAssembly

  1. David Fox says:

    I bought my first computer in 1985, a 128k Mac. Such a treat to look back at software of the time and marvel at how much was done with so few resources. Looking forward to seeing Aldus Pagemaker running one of these days – now THAT was a slick piece of software.

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