Growing the Bytecode Alliance
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/GeneralBy Bobby Holley

Growing the Bytecode Alliance

Today, Mozilla joins Fastly, Intel, and Microsoft in announcing the incorporation and expansion of the Bytecode Alliance, a cross-industry partnership to advance a vision for fast, secure, and simplified software development based on WebAssembly.

Building software today means grappling with a set of vexing trade-offs. If you want to build something big, it’s not realistic to build each component from scratch. But relying on a complex supply chain of components from other parties allows a defect anywhere in that chain to compromise the security and stability of the entire program. Tools like containers can provide some degree of isolation, but they add substantial overhead and are impractical to use at per-supplier granularity. And all of these dynamics entrench the advantages of big companies with the resources to carefully manage and audit their supply chains.

Mozilla helped create WebAssembly to allow the Web to grow beyond JavaScript and run more kinds of software at faster speeds. But as it matured, it became clear that WebAssembly’s technical properties — particularly memory isolation — also had the potential to transform software development beyond the browser by resolving the tension described above. Several other organizations shared this view, and we came together to launch the Bytecode Alliance as an informal industry partnership in late 2019. As part of this launch, we articulated our shared vision and called for others to join us in bringing it to life.

That vision resonated with others, and we soon heard from many more organizations interested in joining the Alliance. However, it was clear that our informal structure would not scale adequately, and so we asked prospective members to be patient and, in parallel with ongoing technical efforts, worked to incorporate the Alliance as a formal 501(c)(6) organization. That process is now complete, and we’re thrilled to welcome Arm, DFINITY Foundation, Embark Studios, Google, Shopify, and University of California at San Diego as official members of the Bytecode Alliance. We aim to continue growing the Alliance in the coming months, and encourage other like-minded organizations to apply.

We have a real opportunity to change how software is built, and in doing so, enable small teams to build big things that are both secure and fast. Achieving the elusive trifecta — easy composition, defect isolation, and high performance — requires both the right technology and a coordinated effort across the ecosystem to deploy it in the right way. Mozilla believes that WebAssembly has the right technical ingredients to build a better, more secure Internet, and that the Bytecode Alliance has the vision and momentum to make it happen.