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A simple, raw WebAssembly demo for macOS-based developers

This is an attempt to show off the process of writing a simple function in C, compiling it to WebAssembly, and calling it from both Node.js and the Web browser, as of April 2019.

There's a lot of out of date guides out there, so the goal here is to keep things both as simple as possible and working using the norms of early 2019.

Note: This is aimed at macOS-based users. Everything will be generally fine for Linux users too, but installing a recent version of LLVM/clang (or even Emscripten) is a real minefield unless you know what you're doing.

Another note: Surma has written a fantastic tutorial which goes much deeper into the stuff covered in this repo. I strongly recommend it.

Write a function in C

Here's a basic Fibonacci sequence algorithm written in C:

int fib(int n) {
  int a = 0, b = 1, c = 0;

  for (int i = 1; i <= n; i++) {
    c = a + b;
    a = b;
    b = c;

  return a;

Store that in a file called fib.c

How to Compile the C to WebAssembly

You need to be running the latest version of llvm/clang for the compilation to be relatively straightforward. The version of clang that comes with macOS/Xcode is NOT suitable.

On macOS with homebrew installed, run brew install llvm

You can also download pre-built binaries from here for most operating systems.

Once you have clang in play, this is how to compile fib.c to fib.wasm:

/usr/local/opt/llvm/bin/clang fib.c -o fib.wasm --target=wasm32 -nostdlib -fvisibility=default -Xlinker --no-entry -Xlinker -export-dynamic

You should now have a fib.wasm file to play with.

@julien has supplied a Makefile which also runs the above, though note you may need to prefix running make with a different PATH if you are using a separate build of clang like above. For example:

PATH=/usr/local/opt/llvm/bin:$PATH make

How to run the WebAssembly in Node.js

Using a recent version of Node (8+):

node node.js

Read the source code for the mechanism involved.

How to run the WebAssembly in the browser

Serve index.html over HTTP. The easiest way to do this on most systems is:

python -m SimpleHTTPServer 3000

Then navigate to http://localhost:3000/

Read the source code for the mechanism involved and some extra comments on its operation.


A simple example of compiling C to WebAssembly and running it




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