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A minimalist Rust WebAssembly project template

Project README

MiniWASM - A minimalist Rust WebAssembly project template

This is a minimal Rust-powered WebAssembly application template. It was designed to showcase what must be done to get Rust-powered WebAssembly going with only a small amount of code, while still providing useful tools, such as integration with console.log.

How to build?

The easiest way is to install Docker on your system and run the script. This script builds a Docker image containing Rust, the wasm32-unknown-unknown target, and a couple of dependencies for optimizing the generated .wasm files.

After building the Docker image the script then launches a container with that image, giving you a shell with a proper build environment. Alternatively you can just install Rust and the wasm32 target on your host machine, and also install binaryen and wabt.

Either way, after opening a shell with a build environment, you can just run the script. This builds the miniwasm.wasm file and runs it through the optimizer to reduce the file size.

Now that you have the compiled WebAssembly file you can run the script. This runs a web server in the current working directory (thanks to Python). You can then go to http://localhost:8000/ to view the application. Open the console to see the log messages that the WebAssembly produces.

Why not wasm-bindgen or wasm-pack?

Wasm-bindgen is awesome, so use it when you can. I myself am working on projects that have more strict performance requirements, and wasm-bindgen's translation layer often gets in the way of performance when I need to pass data back and forth between Rust and JavaScript. Therefore I created MiniWASM as a template to quickly prototype new experiments for my algorithms.

Another reason why you might want to use MiniWASM as a starting point is that you want to build something small and don't want to depend on wasm-pack's NPM packages.


This application template should be compatible with all modern browsers. However, it has only been tested with Chrome 88 and Safari 14. It will probably work fine in Firefox too though.

Technical details

This project consists of two components:

  1. A Rust file serving as the entry point for the WebAssembly application.
  2. An HTML file with embedded JavaScript code to bootstrap the WebAssembly application.

The Rust WebAssembly application

The Rust WebAssembly application is a single-file crate that performs a few functions:

  1. It sets up wee_alloc as the memory allocator.

  2. It has a bridge to send log messages to JavaScript. This is done by importing some proxy functions (one for console.log and one for console.error) and calling them with the address and length of a &str.

    The JavaScript implementation of these functions then looks into the WebAssembly application's WebAssembly.Memory instance and extracts the characters, converting the raw bytes back into a JavaScript-representation before handing them off to the JavaScript console functions.

  3. It defines a struct that holds the application's global state and stores this in a cell in thread local storage.

  4. It defines functions that act as a bridge between the WebAssembly module's external interface and the application struct.

  5. It has a bootstrapping function that sets up a new panic handler so that we can see panics in the JavaScript console.

JavaScript bootstrapping code

Instantiating a WebAssembly module is easy. We just have to fetch the .wasm file and pass its contents into WebAssembly.instantiate.

To get logging to work we need to do a little bit more though. When instantiating the WebAssembly module we provide an import descriptor that exposes console.log and console.error. We can't expose those functions directly though, because WebAssembly's calling convention only allows us to use primitive types as arguments and return values. Therefore we wrap the logging functions with a function that takes the location of a string slice and extracts the bytes from the WebAssembly application's Memory instance. These bytes are converted into a JavaScript string and then handed off to the logging function.


Copyright 2021 Emil Loer.

This project is licensed under the MIT license. A copy of the license can be found in the project repository.

Open Source Agenda is not affiliated with "MiniWASM" Project. README Source: thedjinn/MiniWASM
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