Hello WASM World!

This example, walks through how to compile a hello world executable written in C++ to WebAssembly and how execute it with standalone WebAssembly runtimes, the Node.js JavaScript runtime, and web browser runtimes!

Before getting started, make sure Node.js and Docker are installed. On Linux, make sure you can run docker without sudo. On Windows, we recommend WSL 2 with Docker enabled.

First, let’s create a new directory to house our project.

mkdir itk-wasm-hello-world
cd itk-wasm-hello-world

Let’s write some code! Populate hello.cxx with our Hello World program:

#include <iostream>

int main() {
std::cout << "Hello WASM world!" << std::endl;
return 0;

Next, provide a CMake build configuration at CMakeLists.txt:

cmake_minimum_required(VERSION 3.16)

add_executable(hello hello.cxx)

We use the add_executable command to build executables with itk-wasm. The Emscripten and WASI toolchains along with itk-wasm build and execution configurations are contained in the itk-wasm dockcross Docker images used by the itk-wasm command line interface (CLI). Note that the same code can also be built and tested with native operating system toolchains. This is useful for development and debugging.

Build the program with the itk-wasm CLI, itk-wasm. This is shipped with the itk-wasm Node.js package. First install itk-wasm with the Node Package Manager, npm, the CLI that ships with Node.js.

npm install --global itk-wasm


Build the project with the WASI itkwasm/wasi toolchain in the ./wasi-build/ directory:

itk-wasm -i itkwasm/wasi -b ./wasi-build/ build

A hello.wasi.wasm WebAssembly binary is built in the ./wasi-build/ directory.

ls wasi-build
build.ninja CMakeFiles libwasi-exception-shim.a
cmake_install.cmake hello.wasi.wasm

Execute the binary with the run itk-wasm subcommand.

❯ itk-wasm -b ./wasi-build/ run hello.wasi.wasm
Hello WASM world!

Congratulations! You just executed a C++ program compiled to WebAssembly. 🎉

The binary can also be executed with any of the available WASI runtimes.


For Node.js or the Browser, build the project with the default Emscripten toolchain. The project is built in the ./web-build directory by default.

itk-wasm build

To execute the project, create an index.mjs JavaScript file to invoke the module:

import path from 'path'
import { runPipelineNode } from 'itk-wasm'

const pipelinePath = path.resolve('web-build', 'hello')

And run it!

❯ npx node ./index.mjs
Hello WASM world!

Congratulations! You just executed a C++ program in JavaScript. 🎉


The same Emscripten WebAssembly module can be executed in a web browser.

Create an HTML file that will call the WebAssembly module through JavaScript and display
its output in the HTML DOM:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<title>itk-wasm Browser Hello World!</title>
<meta charset="UTF-8" />
<script src="https://cdn.jsdelivr.net/npm/itk-wasm@1.0.0-b.6/dist/umd/itk-wasm.min.js"></script>

<textarea readonly>WebAssembly output...</textarea>

const outputTextArea = document.querySelector("textarea");
outputTextArea.textContent = "Loading...";

const wasmURL = new URL('web-build/hello', document.location)
const args = []
const inputs = null
const outputs = null
itk.runPipeline(null, wasmURL, args, inputs, outputs).then(
({ stdout, webWorker }) => {
outputTextArea.textContent = stdout

Serve the with an http server:

npm install --global http-server
http-server .

And point your browser to

Hello WASM World!

Congratulations! You just executed a C++ program in your web browser. 🎉