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WIT Resources

-- 464 Words
Rust, Wasm,

Support for “resources” just landed in the wit-bindgen repository. This post explores why resources are crucial for writing rich, object-oriented APIs in WIT.

The WIT format definition describes resources as an “abstract type… which is an entity with a lifetime that can only be passed around indirectly via handle values.” This allows host runtimes to define an interface, and then return objects to the guest by reference (handle). These objects live in and are managed by the host, which significantly reduces the need for copying data in and out of WASM memory.


As an example, before resources, it was common for HTTP fetch calls to return either a full copy of the response, or a “handle” to a response object. Rather than this being a first class object, it was simply an integer handle, and the end-user was required to pass this handle into “instance methods” to interact with this object:

let response = fetch("https://kflansburg.com");

let status = response_status(response);

let body = response_body(response);

As you can see, this works fine, but is clunky, and makes raw host APIs unpleasent to interact with. Many platforms then have to ship an “sdk” or other language-specific wrapper to make this more ergonomic.


Now, with resources, we can do this:

let response = fetch("https://kflansbug.com");

let status = response.status();
let body = response.body();

In this case, the response object can be used like a first-class object, and data such as body is only copied into the guest memory if it is used.


On the WIT side of things, resources are defined roughly (this is untested) like:

resource response {
    constructor(body: list<u8>, status: u16)
    status: func(self: borrow<response>) -> u16
    body: func(self: response) -> list<u8>
    not-found: static func() -> reponse

interface http {
    fetch: func(url: string) -> response

There are a couple of interesting things here. First, there is a constructor definition, which allows the guest to create new response objects (which are still managed by the host), and obtain a handle to them.

Next, the status method takes a borrow of response, which means that response will live beyond usage of that method. body, on the other hand, takes ownership of and consumes response, which cannot be used again.

Finally, not-found is a static method, which does not take a self parameter, but allows for related, non-instance functions to be namespaced within the resource.


Resources were a key missing piece and will signifigantly improve the ergonomics and sophistication of WASM host APIs. Specifically, APIs related to managing file descriptors, streams, or deeply nested types will be significantly easier to develop with for both the platform and the guest. Finally, this type of pattern will be very useful for enabling capability-based access patterns in guest components.