A WebAssembly interpreter

Public Library0.0.13updated a day ago69.16 KB
wapm install yamt/toywasm

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  • Readme.md


What's this?

A WebAssembly interpreter.

On-browser demo

You can try it out on webassembly.sh:

$ curl -o cowsay.wasm https://registry-cdn.wapm.io/contents/liftm/cowsay/0.2.2/target/wasm32-wasi/release/cowsay.wasm
toywasm --wasi cowsay.wasm hello
< hello >
        \   ^__^
         \  (oo)\_______
            (__)\       )\/\
               ||----w |
                ||     ||

Note: the binary published to wapm.io is built with an ancient wasi-sdk to workaround an webassembly.sh issue.


  • Learn the spec by implementing it
  • Have a fun
  • Correctness
  • Clean code
  • Small footprint


  • Performance
  • Stable API/ABI

Which specs are implemented?

Where can this run?

The most tested

  • macOS/amd64
  • wasm32-wasi (on toywasm itself)

Tested on CI


  • macOS/amd64
  • Ubuntu/amd64

With qemu (less coverage because of slowness)

  • Ubuntu/arm64
  • Ubuntu/armhf (Note: 32-bit)
  • Ubuntu/s390x (Note: big endian)

with even less coverage

  • wasm32-wasi

Occasionally tested manually

  • wasm32-wasi-threads
  • NuttX/xtensa
  • NuttX/sim on macOS/amd64
  • NetBSD/amd64

How slow is this?

  • reasonable performance for an interpreter
  • far slower than jit-based engines (as expected)

benchmark with ffmpeg

+++++++++++ Interpreters +++++++++++
===== toywasm v0.0.12-47-g5195d36
----- ./b/toywasm --wasi --wasi-dir .video --
       80.81 real        80.76 user         0.04 sys
            85704704  maximum resident set size
        928886373006  instructions retired
            65818624  peak memory footprint
===== Wasm3 v0.5.0 on x86_64
----- wasm3 --dir .video --
       17.76 real        17.72 user         0.03 sys
            84811776  maximum resident set size
        119202854389  instructions retired
            84189184  peak memory footprint
===== iwasm 1.1.2 (fast interpreter)
----- iwasm.fast --dir=.video
       21.51 real        21.45 user         0.05 sys
           142340096  maximum resident set size
        145416287370  instructions retired
           141680640  peak memory footprint
===== iwasm 1.1.2 (classic interpreter)
----- iwasm.classic --dir=.video
      204.87 real       204.75 user         0.07 sys
            80601088  maximum resident set size
        972808351888  instructions retired
            79994880  peak memory footprint
===== wasmedge version 0.12.0-alpha.1-18-g656ffd1c (interpreter)
----- wasmedge --dir .video --
      191.43 real       191.16 user         0.23 sys
           656846848  maximum resident set size
       1849697059414  instructions retired
           629571584  peak memory footprint
+++++++++++ JIT ++++++++++++++++++++
===== iwasm 1.1.2 (fast jit)
----- iwasm.fast-jit --dir=.video --jit-codecache-size=100000000
        3.47 real         6.12 user         0.15 sys
           150413312  maximum resident set size
         55907165813  instructions retired
           139563008  peak memory footprint
===== wasmer 2.3.0
----- wasmer run --dir .video --
        7.46 real        53.53 user         2.91 sys
           782438400  maximum resident set size
        215363514668  instructions retired
           573227008  peak memory footprint
===== wasmtime-cli 3.0.1
----- wasmtime run --dir .video --
        6.86 real        43.54 user         1.64 sys
           442699776  maximum resident set size
        179148836698  instructions retired
           368766976  peak memory footprint

Why is this slow?

  • Unlike many of interpreters, toywasm aims to execute wasm bytecode directly where possible. That is, it doesn't "compile" wasm bytecode into intermediate code.

    Unfortunately, wasm is simply not efficient to execute that way. It's basically designed to be somehow "compiled" at the load time.

    Many of interpreters out there translate wasm bytecode to their internal bytecode for performance reasons. Wasm3 and WAMR "fast" interpreter work exactly that way. Even WAMR "classic" interpreter replaces some critical instructions in-place.

    While toywasm maps wasm modules read-only and never modifies it in-place, it still generates a few types of offline annotations on the bytecode to avoid being too slow. While they are smaller than a full translation, you might consider them a kind of translation:

    • Jump table.

      This is to speed up branching. Wasm branch instruction don't have a cheap way to know the destination address to jump to. Without this table, whenever we execute branch instructions, we need to parse every instructions the branch would skip over.

      This is optional and can be disabled by the --disable-jump-table runtime option.

    • Local offset tables.

      This is to speed up access to locals (E.g. local.get) in case toywasm is built with variable-sized values, which is the default. (-D TOYWASM_USE_SMALL_CELLS=ON) Without this table, an access to a local is O(x) where x is the number of locals in the function, including function arguments.

      You can disable them by --disable-localtype-cellidx and the --disable-resulttype-cellidx runtime options.

      When toywasm is built with fixed-sized values, (-D TOYWASM_USE_SMALL_CELLS=OFF) an access to a local is O(1). In that case, this table is not necessary or used, regardless of the above mentioned cli options. An implementation with fixed-sized values is probably more cpu-efficient especially on a 64-bit host. It's probably more memory-efficient as well because it doesn't involve the static overhead. (this table) The situation might change when we implement larger values. (v128 used by SIMD.)

    • Type annotations for value-polymorphic instructions.

      Some wasm instructions like drop works on a value of any types and there is no cheap way to know the type at runtime. While validating the bytecode, toywasm annotates these instructions with the sizes of the values so that the necessary infomation is available when executing it later. While it's theoretically possible to calculate them at the execution time, it would be something like repeating the validation step.

      This is unconditionally enabled if and only if toywasm is built with variable-sized values, which is the default. (-D TOYWASM_USE_SMALL_CELLS=ON)

  • I don't like to use huge-switch statements or labels as values, which are well-known techniques to implement efficient interpreters.

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