· 6 min read Posted by Gustavo Fão Valvassori

Getting Started with Web Assembly and Kotlin Multiplatform

Web Assembly is a new technology that allows you to run code written in languages other than JavaScript in the browser. In this article, we will learn how to use Kotlin Multiplatform to write code that runs in the browser using Web Assembly.
Alexandre Debiève - https://unsplash.com/photos/macro-photography-of-black-circuit-board-FO7JIlwjOtU
Credit: Alexandre Debiève - https://unsplash.com/photos/macro-photography-of-black-circuit-board-FO7JIlwjOtU

Since almost the beginning of the web, JavaScript has been the only language that could run in the browser. If you wanted to create a web application with dynamic behavior, sooner or later, you would have to write some JavaScript code.

But, in 2015, a new technology was announced to change this scenario: Web Assembly (Wasm). Web Assembly is a binary instruction format that allows you to run code written in languages other than JavaScript in the browser. This means you can write code in languages like C, C++, Rust, and Kotlin, and run it in the browser.

The support for Web Assembly in Kotlin was announced by JetBrains in April 2023 in the 1.8.20 release. Since then, the Kotlin team has been working to improve its support. With the latest release, you are now able to build full interactive web applications using Compose Multiplatform.

Even though the support for Web Assembly in Kotlin is still experimental, it’s an excellent alternative to JavaScript for writing web applications. This article will teach us how to use Kotlin to write Web Assembly code.

Creating the project

Just like the Getting Started with Compose for Web project, we will create a new clean project using IntelliJ IDEA and manually add the dependencies. But if you want to start a project with Compose Multiplatform configuration ready, you can also use the KMP project wizard.

For now, the clean project will be enough. So, let’s create it using the IntelliJ IDEA.

IntelliJ IDEA Project Wizard

For now, let’s keep the “Add sample code” checked to have some sample code. As you can see below, it’s a simple Hello World.

fun main() {
    val name = "Kotlin"
    println("Hello, $name!")

    for (i in 1..5) {
        println("i = $i")

Now, let’s start configuring it to compile for Web Assembly. First, you need to change the Kotlin Plugin to use the “multiplatform”, and add the wasm target to the project. You can do this by editing the build.gradle.kts file and adding the following lines:

plugins {
    // Change from kotlin("jvm") to kotlin("multiplatform")
    kotlin("multiplatform") version "1.9.22"

// Add the Kotlin configuration with wasm target
kotlin {
    wasmJs {

Next, create your source directory for the wasm target and move the sample code to the new directory. You can do this by following the steps in the video below:

The final step is to create an HTML file to load the wasm project and show in the browser. You can create a simple file, like the one below, in the src/wasmMain/resources directory:

        <title>Hello World Wasm</title>
        <script src="wasm-getting-started.js"></script>
The script file name will depend on your project name. Make sure to use the same value you set in the project wizard

Now, you can run the wasmBrowserDevelopmentRun task to compile the project and open the HTML file in the browser. If you prefer, you can use the --continuous flag to keep the browser open and automatically reload the page when you change the code.

./gradlew wasmBrowserDevelopmentRun --continuous

🎉 With this, you have your first Kotlin Web Assembly project running in the browser!

Hello World Wasm

To build the final/production output, you can use the wasmJsBrowserProductionWebpack task. It will generate the final output in the build/dist/wasmJs/productionExecutable directory. You can use the files in this directory to deploy to any static web server (like Github Pages, Netlify, Vercel, or any other you prefer).

Different from the development run, this task will run only once and will not start a web server to provide your files.

How does it work?

The process of instantiating a Web Assembly module in the browser is a bit more complex than just running a JavaScript file. First, you need to load your .wasm file and then instantiate it using the WebAssembly.instantiateStreaming function.

The instantiate has two arguments:

  1. The Wasm file stream (you can use the fetch function to get it);
  2. An import object that provides the functions and objects that the Wasm module needs to run.

Here is an example of how you can do this:

// Example from MDN Docs
// Source: https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/WebAssembly/Using_the_JavaScript_API
WebAssembly.instantiateStreaming(fetch("simple.wasm"), importObject).then(
  (obj) => obj.instance.exports.exported_func(),

But doing this manually is a bit complex, as you need to provide all the required imports for the KotlinWasm module to run. A simple project can have over 3.500 different imports that you need to provide. To help with this, the Kotlin compiler generates a JavaScript file that provides all the required imports and instantiate the .wasm file.

We usually call this JavaScript file that instantiates the Wasm module the “glue code”. It’s the same file we included in the HTML file to load the Wasm module.

Here is a short version of the glue code generated by the Kotlin compiler:

export async function instantiate(imports={}, runInitializer=true) {
    const wasmFilePath = './wasm-getting-started-wasm-js.wasm';
    let wasmInstance;
    let wasmExports;
    // Declare all bridge methods
    const js_code = {
        // These are just a few of them as example 
        // You can check the full list in the generated code from your project
        'kotlin.captureStackTrace' : () => new Error().stack,
        'kotlin.wasm.internal.stringLength' : (x) => x.length,
        'org.w3c.dom.window_$external_prop_getter' : (_this) => _this.window,
        'kotlin.js.Promise_$external_fun' : (p0) => new Promise(p0),
    const importObject = {
    try {
        if (isNodeJs) {
            // Run methods for NodeJS
        if (isStandaloneJsVM) {
            // Run methods for standalone JS VM
        if (isBrowser) {
            // Load Wasm file with all imports defined previously 
            wasmInstance = (await WebAssembly.instantiateStreaming(fetch(wasmFilePath), importObject)).instance;
    } catch (e) {
      // Error handling for the Wasm instantiation
    wasmExports = wasmInstance.exports;
    // Run the `main` function
    if(runInitializer) {
    // Return the instance and exports
    return { instance: wasmInstance,  exports: wasmExports };

Final thoughts

In this article, we learned how to create a new Kotlin project that compiles to Web Assembly and runs in the browser. This is the entry point and the basics you need to know to start writing web applications using Kotlin and Web Assembly.

We also learned a bit about how the Kotlin compiler generates the glue code to instantiate the Wasm module and how it provides all the required imports for the Wasm module to run.

In future articles, we will explore more about this Kotlin target and how to use it to create an entire web applications. Stay tuned for more!