Thursday, 20 October 2011


JSON: JavaScript Object Notation.
JSON is syntax for storing and exchanging text information. Much like XML.
JSON is smaller than XML, and faster and easier to parse.
What is JSON?
  • JSON stands for JavaScript Object Notation
  • JSON is lightweight text-data interchange format
  • JSON is language independent *
  • JSON is "self-describing" and easy to understand
JSON uses JavaScript syntax for describing data objects, but JSON is still language and platform independent. JSON parsers and JSON libraries exists for many different programming languages.

JSON - Evaluates to JavaScript Objects
The JSON text format is syntactically identical to the code for creating JavaScript objects.
Because of this similarity, instead of using a parser, a JavaScript program can use the built-in eval() function and execute JSON data to produce native JavaScript objects.
<h2>JSON Object Creation in JavaScript</h2>
Name: <span id="jname"></span><br />
Age: <span id="jage"></span><br />
Address: <span id="jstreet"></span><br />
Phone: <span id="jphone"></span><br />
<script type="text/javascript">
var JSONObject= {
"name":"John Johnson",
"street":"Oslo West 555",
"phone":"555 1234567"};

Much Like XML
  • JSON is plain text
  • JSON is "self-describing" (human readable)
  • JSON is hieratical (values within values)
  • JSON can be parsed by JavaScript
  • JSON data can be transported using AJAX

Much Unlike XML
  • No end tag
  • Shorter
  • Quicker to read and write
  • Can be parsed using built-in JavaScript eval()
  • Uses arrays
  • No reserved words

For AJAX applications, JSON is faster and easier than XML:
Using XML
  • Fetch an XML document
  • Use the XML DOM to loop through the document
  • Extract values and store in variables
Using JSON
  • Fetch a JSON string
  • eval() the JSON string
JSON syntax is a subset of JavaScript syntax

JSON Syntax Rules

JSON syntax is a subset of the JavaScript object notation syntax.

Data is in name/value pairs
Data is separated by comma
Curly brackets holds objects
Square brackets holds arrays
JSON Name/Value Pairs

JSON data is written as name/value pairs.

A name/value pair consists of a field name (in double quotes), followed by a colon, followed by a value:

"firstName" : "John"
This is simple to understand, and equals to the JavaScript statement:

firstName = "John"

JSON Values

JSON values can be:

A number (integer or floating point)
A string (in double quotes)
A Boolean (true or false)
An array (in square brackets)
An object (in curly bractes)
JSON Objects

JSON objects are written inside curly brackets,

Objects can contain multiple name/values pairs:

{ "firstName":"John" , "lastName":"Doe" }
This is also simple to understand, and equals to the JavaScript statements:

firstName = "John"
lastName = "Doe"

JSON Arrays

JSON arrays are written inside square brackets.

An array can contain multiple objects:

"employees": [
{ "firstName":"John" , "lastName":"Doe" },
{ "firstName":"Anna" , "lastName":"Smith" },
{ "firstName":"Peter" , "lastName":"Jones" }
In the example above, the object "employees" is an array containing three objects. Each object is a record of a person (with a first name and a last name).

JSON Uses JavaScript Syntax

Because JSON uses JavaScript syntax, no extra software is needed to work with JSON within JavaScript.

With JavaScript you can create an array of objects and assign data to it like this:


var employees = [
{ "firstName":"John" , "lastName":"Doe" },
{ "firstName":"Anna" , "lastName":"Smith" },
{ "firstName":"Peter" , "lastName": "Jones" }
The first entry in the JavaScript object array can be accessed like this:

The returned content will be:

The data can be modified like this:

employees[0].lastName = "Jonatan";

JSON Files

The file type for JSON files is ".json"
The MIME type for JSON text is "application/json"

Converting a JSON Text to a JavaScript Object

One of the most common use of JSON is to fetch JSON data from a web server (as a file or as an HttpRequest), convert the JSON data to a JavaScript object, and then use the data in a web page.

For simplicity, this can be demonstrated by using a string as input (instead of a file).

JSON Example - Object From String

Create a JavaScript string containing JSON syntax:

var txt = '{ "employees" : [' +
'{ "firstName":"John" , "lastName":"Doe" },' +
'{ "firstName":"Anna" , "lastName":"Smith" },' +
'{ "firstName":"Peter" , "lastName":"Jones" } ]}';
Since JSON syntax is a subset of JavaScript syntax, the JavaScript function eval() can be used to convert a JSON text into a JavaScript object.

The eval() function uses the JavaScript compiler which will parse the JSON text and produce a JavaScript object. The text must be wrapped in parenthesis to avoid a syntax error:

var obj = eval ("(" + txt + ")");
Use the JavaScript object in your page:


First Name: <span id="fname"></span><br />
Last Name: <span id="lname"></span><br />

<script type="text/javascript">
document.getElementById("fname").innerHTML = obj.employees[1].firstName
document.getElementById("lname").innerHTML = obj.employees[1].lastName
JSON Parser

  The eval() function can compile and execute any JavaScript. This represents a potential security problem.

It is safer to use a JSON parser to convert a JSON text to a JavaScript object. A JSON parser will recognize only JSON text and will not compile scripts.

In browsers that provide native JSON support, JSON parsers are also faster.

Native JSON support is included in newer browsers and in the newest ECMAScript (JavaScript) standard.