Stellar joins Bytecode Alliance to help develop EVM alternative Wasm

The Stellar Development Foundation has joined the Bytecode Alliance, an industry group promoting the development of WebAssembly (Wasm), according to an Aug. 21 announcement. Wasm is a competitor to the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) used by the Ethereum ecosystem. It is also used in non-blockchain, browser-based applications.

EVM is a virtual machine or computation engine used to execute smart contracts. It is used by most blockchain networks, including Ethereum, BNB Smart Chain, Avalanche and many others. But a few networks use Wasm instead, including Polkadot, MultiversX (formerly Elrond) and Internet Computer.

Stellar began as a payments network in 2014. But in 2022, it implemented smart contracts to provide more functionality to the network. In April 2022, Stellar developers chose Wasm as their computation engine. They argued that despite the popularity of EVM, its “storage and execution models are expensive and challenging to parallelize,” which “gets in the way of scalability,” making transactions more expensive.

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Stellar also argued that Wasm was perfect for “extremely adversarial” environments like blockchains, as it was originally developed for browser applications. This was another reason the team chose Wasm over EVM.

But much of the development work for Wasm is produced by the Bytecode Alliance, a nonprofit organization made up of internet companies such as Amazon, Cisco, Intel, Microsoft and others. When Stellar chose Wasm as its computation engine, Internet Computer developer Dfinity was the only member of the alliance representing a blockchain network.

In its Aug. 21 announcement, Stellar argued that joining the Bytecode Alliance was a “no-brainer,” as it would allow the team to “influence standards and tooling” within the Wasm development community. The team emphasized that its goal was to not only represent Stellar but to “advocate for all of blockchain and its developers.” According to Stellar, its participation in the organization will help the alliance support the needs of Web3 and blockchain developers:

“This influence ensures that the Alliance considers the unique needs of blockchain and non-web use cases, moving the Wasm ecosystem towards accommodating and supporting a broader range of applications, like […] Smart contract platforms.”

The Wasm community continues to make inroads into the EVM-dominated Web3 world. On April 3, the Astar network announced that it would allow both EVM and Wasm contracts to be deployed on the same network, allowing developers to use either virtual machine. Astar labeled the event “Wasm launch day.” On Aug. 22, Binance announced it would provide $2.2 million in funding for a zero-knowledge proof application platform using Wasm called “zkWASMHub.”