Browser-based games are nothing new, from Farmville to Plants vs. Zombies to Candy Crush Saga. Back then, smartphones weren’t as ubiquitous or as accessible as they are now. Browser games have since then taken a backseat, held back by limitations of web technologies and languages. Not anymore, promises Mozilla. With Firefox 52.0 and its fancy new WebAssembly feature, gaming on web browsers need no longer be limited to simplistic, usually 2D games. They can, and will, run more complex 3D games, without requiring a plugin.
The basic premise of WebAssembly is that it allows web apps and games to run at nearly the same speed as native applications. You know, the ones you install (or compile) on your desktop. That’s definitely a big claim, considering there are layers of abstraction sitting between the web browser and the computer’s hardware. But to prove its point, Mozilla and Epic Games prepared a demo of a 3D scene running inside Firefox, version 52 of course, using the Unreal Engine, one of the most popular game engines in the market.
Though initiated by Mozilla, WebAssembly is being pushed, by Mozilla naturally, as a new standardized Web technology. It says that other browser makers are onboard, though it remains to be seen just how much. Otherwise, it might be Browser Wars 3.0. While games are the direct beneficiaries of WebAssembly, Mozilla also envisions that the performance boost will also benefit web apps along the way.
WebAssembly, however, is something for future developers to still use. The Firefox 52.0 release does have some things that benefit users today. For example, the browser can automatically detect captive portals, the sometimes infuriating, often exasperating problem with public Wi-Fi hotspots. Firefox 52.0 also takes security warnings a bit further, discretely popping up an alert when you try to sign into a site that doesn’t use encrypted HTTPS connections.