Why JSON?

I was wondering as I researched last night why Google AJAX Search API was using JSON. I have never even heard of JSON (JavaScript Object Notation). I fully expected the AJAX API to be using XML… it is Asynchronous JavaScript And XML, after all. But, at least for the RESTfulinterface (another term I’ve never heard) Google has eschewed XML for the more compact JSON format.

Today I found a link on JSON.org to I can’t believe it’s not XML! by James Bennett back in 2006. I think it gives good reasons why both JSON and REST are good choices for Google, which are humorously summarized in this quote:

So the XML-the-protocol-stack people are more than a little bit scared and defensive right now because of the REST folks. And now here are these kids with their startup companies and their weblogs who are getting data exchange and even things that kind of look like APIs out of… JavaScript arrays? The XML guys are sitting up on the mountaintop like the Grinch, with his pile of stolen presents, wondering how Christmas still managed to happen: it came without specs! It came without hype! It came without angle brackets, envelopes or types!

So it may not be formal or robust, but JSON is cheap, it’s fast, and it works. And by now, it’s fairly widespread; having never heard of this protocol, I feel behind the times. I should bounce this off my advisor.

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