As we propel into 2023, we’re focusing on two pivotal web development trends that are shaping the Hyperlocal Web: WebAssembly and service workers, in conjunction with serverless edge computing.
We’re attempting to lessen the amount of processing done on the client with edge computing and serverless functions. Instead, we rely on a sizable distributed network of servers to quickly provide their work to the customers. We’re enabling client applications to run server-like code natively and offline with WebAssembly and service workers. Note that there are some variances between web & service workers, but for the purposes of this article we’re going to use the term “service workers” to relate to both interchangeable terms as they both have a role to play.
These two developments appear to be at odds with one another at first glance, but we believe their junction is the key to the web’s hyperlocal future. So let’s examine each trend in more detail on its own.
Serverless Edge Computing: The Backbone of the Hyperlocal Web
We’re back to letting servers perform (most of) the work for us and sending (mainly) HTML and CSS thanks to edge computing and serverless functionalities.
The defining characteristic of the Hyperlocal Web is the use of geographically distributed ‘edge networks.’ By utilizing these networks, we’re able to deliver server-rendered data to our web apps with significantly reduced latency. ‘Serverless’ operations further streamline this process by drastically reducing our dependency on managed resources. Amazon (AWS) was once the sole dominator in this field, but the landscape has expanded. Now, we’re witnessing an influx of companies offering this Hyperlocal Web-friendly software delivery approach, including the likes of CloudFlare, Vercel, Render, and Deno Deploy among others.
WebAssembly & Service Workers
Service providers have been in existence for a little while longer. Although the version 1 candidate draft was released last year, the first W3C working draft was released in 2014. Web applications can effectively use parallel computing by offloading tasks off the main browser thread through the use of service workers. Also, they improve performance and offline caching when network access is poor. This enables your program to function “locally” until it can connect to the server and synchronize.
Edge Computing & WebAssembly
Thankfully, it is simple to reconcile these two developments. WebAssembly support is already available from edge network & serverless compute providers on various platforms. This enables code packages that can actually be written once and run anywhere.
Service workers enable client programs to simultaneously retrieve and cache resources in the background. The downloading of these assets should be greatly accelerated by nearby edge nodes. A serverless function may handle the first app request in a typical app lifecycle, with future app requests running natively in the client.
The web app developer now has a lot of power as a result. By taking into account aspects like whether pertinent data is kept on the server or the client and whether the client has had a chance to cache huge code files, you can optimize where your app performs its heavy lifting. For improved performance, you may even set up your optimization to work simultaneously on the client and server.
What Comes Next for the Hyperlocal Web
We look forward to seeing how other app frameworks use this new paradigm. The trend is toward server-first programming. Yet, the concept of run-anywhere WebAssembly and having your program intelligently manage the server-client handoff with service workers is still in its early stages.
We’re curious about how edge networks spread. The provider rivalry is heating up, but I believe we’re only touching the surface of what’s possible. For example, we may see technologies emerge that make it simple to deploy your app over various edge networks, ensuring that your customers always communicate with the nearest possible data center.
Also, we would like to see investments in this kind of infrastructure from governments and municipalities. Imagine if you could pay local governments to host your app instead of paying a private company. The computing power of your users’ servers might be located right in their backyards.
At HyperSense, our global software development company, we love to see how technology trends shape the future of the apps built around the world and this inspires us to keep on moving forward, as the boundaries of software development can yet be crossed with creativity, innovation, and good work. If what we do inspires you too and have an idea of a web or mobile app for your business, don’t hesitate to reach us. Let’s work together for a brighter future!