Leveraging Legacy Code to Deploy Desktop Applications on the Web

John R. Douceur, Jeremy Elson, Jon Howell, Jacob R. Lorch


Xax is a browser plugin model that enables developers to leverage existing tools, libraries, and entire programs to deliver feature-rich applications on the web. Xax employs a novel combination of mechanisms that collectively provide security, OS-independence, performance, and support for legacy code. These mechanisms include memory-isolated native code execution behind a narrow syscall interface, an abstraction layer that provides a consistent binary interface across operating systems, system services via hooks to existing browser mechanisms, and lightweight modifications to existing tool chains and code bases. We demonstrate a variety of applications and libraries from existing code bases, in several languages, produced with various tool chains, running in multiple browsers on multiple operating systems. With roughly two person-weeks of effort, we ported 3.3 million lines of code to Xax, including a PDF viewer, a Python interpreter, a speech synthesizer, and an OpenGL pipeline.


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