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Building Portable, Scalable Components with TinyGo and wasmCloud

· 5 min read


TinyGo is "a Go compiler for small places". It is a language designed specifically to work on embedded systems and WebAssembly. If you squint hard enough, you can almost imagine that WebAssembly is a form of embedded system (it's embedded in a host runtime).

One of the core tenets of wasmCloud has always been that we embrace the specification without doing anything proprietary. In other words, anyone who knows the "wasmCloud ABI" can create actors in any language that compiles to freestanding WebAssembly. While this is technically true, it's certainly a lot easier when we have an easy SDK and code generation support for a language. Using our SDKs gives you a more friendly library while helping insulate your code from changes to the underlying WebAssembly spec.

The newest language in our arsenal is TinyGo.

To get started, you'll need wash version 0.11.0 or newer.

Let's create a new empty actor from a template as follows:

 $ wash new actor
? Select a project template: ›
hello: a hello-world actor (in Rust) that responds over an http connection
❯ echo-tinygo: a hello-world actor (in TinyGo) that responds over an http connection

I'm going to call this new project kvcounter because, for this blog post, we're going to build an actor that exposes a RESTful interface to a counter service.

This is the actor we get "out of the box":

package main

import (

func main() {
me := Kvcounter{}

type Kvcounter struct{}

func (e *Kvcounter) HandleRequest(
ctx *actor.Context,
req httpserver.HttpRequest)
(*httpserver.HttpResponse, error) {
r := httpserver.HttpResponse{
StatusCode: 200,
Header: make(httpserver.HeaderMap, 0),
Body: []byte("hello"),

return &r, nil

In the preceding code, the RegisterHandlers function sets up the appropriate dispatch so that when the bound HTTP server capability provider receives a request, it knows to invoke this actor.

What we're going to do for this blog post is modify this web request handler so that it takes the name of a counter from the request, increments it using the key-value interface, and returns the new value in response.

First, let's add another provider interface to our imports by first running go get

go get

This will modify our go.mod file to contain the new interface. Now let's create a new version of the HandleRequest function:

func (e *Kvcounter) HandleRequest(
ctx *actor.Context,
req httpserver.HttpRequest) (*httpserver.HttpResponse, error) {

key := strings.Replace(req.Path, "/", "_", -1)

kv := keyvalue.NewProviderKeyValue()

count, err := kv.Increment(ctx, keyvalue.IncrementRequest{
Key: key, Value: 1,
if err != nil {
return InternalServerError(err), nil

res := "{\"counter\": " + strconv.Itoa(int(count)) + "}"

r := httpserver.HttpResponse{
StatusCode: 200,
Header: make(httpserver.HeaderMap, 0),
Body: []byte(res),
return &r, nil

func InternalServerError(err error) *httpserver.HttpResponse {
return &httpserver.HttpResponse{
StatusCode: 500,
Header: make(httpserver.HeaderMap, 0),
Body: []byte(err.Error()),

In this new function, we are converting the Path from the request into a key that will then be used in an Increment operation on the key-value store.

Something might look a little "off" in the code, and that's this line:

res := "{\"counter\": \"" + strconv.Itoa(int(count)) + "\"}"

This is something that we have to watch out for in TinyGo. If we use the stock JSON encoding/marshaling package, then TinyGo will use the following WebAssembly imports (shown in wat):

(import "env" "runtime.ticks" (func $runtime.ticks (type 2)))
(import "env" "syscall/js.valueGet" (func $syscall/js.valueGet (type 3)))
(import "env" "syscall/js.valuePrepareString" (func $syscall/js.valuePrepareString (type 4)))
(import "env" "syscall/js.valueLoadString" (func $syscall/js.valueLoadString (type 3)))
(import "env" "syscall/js.finalizeRef" (func $syscall/js.finalizeRef (type 5)))

To get the preceding output, I typically run the following command (though use could also use wasm-objdump, too):

wasm2wat build/kvcounter_s.wasm| grep import

The wasm2wat binary is included in the wabt toolkit.

There are still quite a few places in TinyGo where importing a certain package will trigger the use of the syscall/js package. Once this package is imported, the host runtime will then require the use of these JavaScript host shims and we then immediately lose all of our portability benefits.

TinyGo is rapidly plugging these holes and providing packages that don't require a JavaScript host runtime, but we still need to watch out for things like this. To keep this example simple rather than hunting for an alternative JSON encoder, we just created a string that contains valid JSON.

Now, just like any other wasmCloud actor, we can modify the CLAIMS variable in the actor's Makefile to contain both the HTTP server contract and the Key-Value contract:

CLAIMS   = --http_server --keyvalue

With our new TinyGo actor in hand, we can start the actor, start two capability providers (HTTP and Key-Value), provide a link definition, and finally curl the running endpoint:

$ curl http://localhost:8080/bloggo
{"counter": 1}
$ curl http://localhost:8080/bloggo
{"counter": 2}

This is just the beginning of a really fun journey supporting TinyGo actors in wasmCloud!

For a fully functioning version of this sample, you can take a look at it in our examples repository.