Communicating types to wasm-bindgen

The last aspect to talk about when converting Rust/JS types amongst one another is how this information is actually communicated. The #[wasm_bindgen] macro is running over the syntactical (unresolved) structure of the Rust code and is then responsible for generating information that wasm-bindgen the CLI tool later reads.

To accomplish this a slightly unconventional approach is taken. Static information about the structure of the Rust code is serialized via JSON (currently) to a custom section of the wasm executable. Other information, like what the types actually are, unfortunately isn't known until later in the compiler due to things like associated type projections and typedefs. It also turns out that we want to convey "rich" types like FnMut(String, Foo, &JsValue) to the wasm-bindgen CLI, and handling all this is pretty tricky!

To solve this issue the #[wasm_bindgen] macro generates executable functions which "describe the type signature of an import or export". These executable functions are what the WasmDescribe trait is all about:


# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#fn main() {
pub trait WasmDescribe {
    fn describe();
}
#}

While deceptively simple this trait is actually quite important. When you write, an export like this:


# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#fn main() {
#[wasm_bindgen]
fn greet(a: &str) {
    // ...
}
#}

In addition to the shims we talked about above which JS generates the macro also generates something like:

#[no_mangle]
pub extern "C" fn __wbindgen_describe_greet() {
    <Fn(&str)>::describe();
}

Or in other words it generates invocations of describe functions. In doing so the __wbindgen_describe_greet shim is a programmatic description of the type layouts of an import/export. These are then executed when wasm-bindgen runs! These executions rely on an import called __wbindgen_describe which passes one u32 to the host, and when called multiple times gives a Vec<u32> effectively. This Vec<u32> can then be reparsed into an enum Descriptor which fully describes a type.

All in all this is a bit roundabout but shouldn't have any impact on the generated code or runtime at all. All these descriptor functions are pruned from the emitted wasm file.