V8 Fast API: What is it?

The V8 Fast API is an extra binding API meant to offer a low-level interface between V8's optimised JavaScript execution and external C API functions. The idea is to do away with the need for V8 to prepare all sorts of generic binding layer structs just so it can call an external C API binding function, when that external binding function will have to unwrap all of the binding layer structs to get to the raw data underneath.

For example: Here is a trivial raw V8 binding function for adding two integers in Rust:

// Bound to `globalThis.add_two()`
fn v8_bind(info: *const FunctionCallbackInfo) {
    // Scope not necessary in our case
    // let scope = &mut unsafe { CallbackScope::new(&*info) };
    let args =
    unsafe { FunctionCallbackArguments::from_function_callback_info(info) };
    let rv = unsafe { ReturnValue::from_function_callback_info(info) };
    let p0 = args.get(0i32);
    let p1 = args.get(1i32);
    if !p0.is_uint32() || !p1.is_uint32() {
        // TODO: Throw exception instead of effectively returning undefined.
    let p0 = v8::Local::<v8::Uint32>::cast(p0);
    let p1 = v8::Local::<v8::Uint32>::cast(p1);
    let p0: u32 = p0.value();
    let p1: u32 = p1.value();

    let result = p0 + p1;


As you can see, the vast majority of this binding function actually deals with extracting the two u32 values from the generic FunctionCallbackInfo binding parameter the function gets called with.

Now imagine that V8 has fully JIT-compiled the JavaScript function that is about to call our binding function. Thanks to JIT-compiling, V8 knows that it is about to call our function with two uint32_t parameters. The code generated by V8 will then need to do something like this (again written in Rust, though V8 code is of course actually in C++):

/// Optimised from `globalThis.add_two`
fn js_add_two_binding_turbofan_jit(context: *const V8ExecutionContext, p0: u32, p1: u32) -> u32 {
    let p0 = v8::Local::<v8::Value>::cast(v8::Integer::new_from_unsigned(context, p0));
    let p1 = v8::Local::<v8::Value>::cast(v8::Integer::new_from_unsigned(context, p1));
    let info = FunctionCallbackInfo::new(context, &[p0, p1]);
    // Next:
    // 1. check for throws from the bind function,
    // 2. dig out the return value from the bind function and check if it matches our expected u32,
    // If either happens, deopt.

The compiled-down function needs to wrap the two uint32_t parameters into the generic Local<Value> struct just so it can pass the parameters (using another generic struct) to our generic binding function which, again, uses most of its runtime tearing down the generic binding structs. This is of course insanity, but it's insanity that must be adhered with JavaScript in the general case, as there is nothing in JavaScript stopping a user from doing any number of the following calls:

globalThis.add_two("foo", "bar");
globalThis.add_two({}, globalThis);

A generic binding on the native side is absolutely necessary. But maybe we could still do something better, somehow?

Strictly typed bindings

Imagine that our v8_bind function could be registered to V8 with extra information explaining what sort of data it expects and returns. Once more, doing this in a completely general way is likely too hard (or just JavaScript) but if we restrict the API interface, then this may be possible.

Say we could give the following data to V8:

enum ApiType {

struct ApiDeclaration {
    parameter_types: Vec<ApiType>,
    return_type: ApiType,

Now we could explain to V8 that our v8_bind function expects two ApiType::U32 parameters and returns one ApiType::U32 as well. Then, if V8 detects that its about to call v8_bind with two u32s, it can skip creating the generic binding layer structs, and our binding function can likewise skip extracting the data out of those structs. Furthermore, V8 will know from our return type declaration that the function will return another U32 so it can skip the return value extraction and continue on its optimised path.

There are some extra steps skipped, like needing to provide a separate fast binding function instead of just reusing the v8_bind function (which of course could not work) and V8 using the first argument to pass in the "Holder" (close to this in JavaScript). The final fast binding function becomes this:

fn v8_bind_fast(_recv: v8::Local<v8::Value>, p0: u32, p1: u32) -> u32 {
    p0 + p1

and the V8 side call becomes just:

fn js_add_two_binding_turbofan_jit(context: *const V8ExecutionContext, p0: u32, p1: u32) -> u32 {
    let recv = unsafe { (&*context).get_receiver() };
    v8_bind_fast(recv, p0, p1)

It's clear from just this that the calling of these fast binding functions is massively faster, taking to the tone of 1/100th part the time it takes to call the generic binding layer API.

The catch

There are a few catches with Fast API:

Not all JavaScript calls are nice and expected

Sometimes users make a mistake and call your carefully laid binding function with the wrong type of argument. When this happens the slow call path needs to be taken, as the fast call C function cannot accept wrong argument types.

Even if the argument types themselves match it's still possible that the fast call may need to fall back onto the slow call. This is something that the fast call can do optionally, for example if it expects a single argument with a u32 value of 0, 1 or 2, but receives 42. In compiled code this might often be grounds to an exception, but in Fast API the call can do an early return and signal to V8 that the slow call should be called for the purpose of throwing a proper JavaScript exception.

The API surface needs to be limited

32-bit integers are easy, but for example expecting V8 to optimally convert your JavaScript object into a C struct automatically is probably too much to ask.

Even relatively simple things like strings are not yet supported by Fast API even as parameters.

No allocating into the V8 heap

For now at least, V8 does not allow fast calls to do allocations on the V8 heap. This means that returning any object-like types is out of the question. This rules out returning not only objects and arrays, but also TypedArrays such as Uint8Array and even BigInts.

It's experimental

V8 may be a pretty solid JavaScript engine but Fast API is very much experimental and only really beginning to take a strong shape. Deno-related Fast API usage has uncovered at least three major bugs so far:

Still, one can expect Fast API to do great things for both Deno, FFI and V8 engine usage in general. The ability to call into native code at native speeds from JavaScript is undeniably powerful.

Supported Fast API types

As of writing this, these are the known supported types of Fast API.


  • Booleans
  • Arrays (passed as Local<Array>, so essentially only primitive values can be used)
  • 32-bit integers
  • 64-bit integers (JavaScript numbers, meaning limited to Number.MAX_SAFE_INTEGER)
  • 32 and 64-bit floating point numbers
  • Uint8Array, Uint32Array, Int32Array, Float32Array, Float64Array, BigUint64Array, and BigInt64Array
  • null and v8::External objects (pointers)
  • Catch-all v8::Local<v8::Value>: This can theoretically be used to pass any value to a fast call but most v8::Values cannot be used in a reasonable fashion due to V8 heap allocations being forbidden.

Return types

  • Void
  • Booleans
  • 32-bit integers
  • 32 and 64-bit floating point numbers
  • Pointers (becomes null or v8::External objects)