API Limitations

The browser environment and JavaScript are different from the native environments that C and C++ typically run in. These differences impose some limitations on how native APIs can be called and used. This section lists some of the more obvious limitations.


Emscripten supports libc networking functions but you must limit yourself to asynchronous (non-blocking) operations. This is required because the underlying JavaScript networking functions are asynchronous.

File Systems

Emscripten supports libc file system functions and C/C++ code can be written in the normal way.

Code run in a browser environment is sandboxed, and does not have direct access to the local file system. Instead, Emscripten creates a virtual file system that may be preloaded with data or linked to URLs for lazy loading. This affects when synchronous file system functions can be called and how a project is compiled. See the File System Overview for more information.

Application Main Loop

The browser event model uses co-operative multitasking — each event has a “turn” to run, and must then return control to the browser event loop so that other events can be processed. A common cause of HTML pages hanging is JavaScript that does not complete and return control to the browser.

This can affect how an application using an infinite main loop is written. See Emscripten Runtime Environment for more information.

Other APIs

Support for other portable C/C++ code is fairly comprehensive.