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XML is toast, long live JSON

Andy Patrizio | June 10, 2016
XML was useful in its time, but it has been supplanted by faster, more flexible formats.

Blame it on JavaScript

While there are several reasons listed for JSON's rise, its JavaScript's popularity on both the client and server sides that has really made the difference, says Zeev Glozman, founder and CEO of Beame.io, an Israeli information security company. "Full software frameworks are being written in JavaScript [in the client], and in the server environment, node.js has become one of the most popular back-end server tools. The language allows native mapping into JSON serialized objects," he says.

David Aktary, founder of AktaryTech, a custom software house, also cites the speed of JavaScript, and adds it offers developers a chance to embrace agile development methods for JavaScript. "There's a lot more structure and rigor in the XML world, whereas JSON is kind of a wing it and kind of similar to waterfall vs. agile. When people are delivering code to production multiple times a day, you have to be flexible and fast and JSON is more suited to that," he says.

Jon Bock, vice president of products and marketing for Snowflake Computing, a cloud data warehouse, agreed on the agile-JSON connection. "There is a connection between the needs of agile development and JSON in that rapidly evolving code often means rapid evolution in the data being generated by that code. Using JSON, the amount of extra work needed to package and unpackage new data elements on the sending and receiving sides can often be less because there is typically an easier mapping between the structures in the JSON representation and the structures in the code processing the data," he says.

"When it comes to XML, you have to really think ahead about how you structure your data and write documents and code the XML for how the data is going to be, whereas JSON is completely flexible,” Aktary says. “The downside is you can get data you didn't expect at runtime, where XML doesn't allow that."

XML put people off because it required so much up front work, says Aktary. "I remember having to do document type definitions and a lot of pre-work to structure my XML-based app, whereas with JSON you can define an object in JavaScript and add whatever properties at runtime. If you try that with XML at runtime it's invalid."

XML still has uses

Bock says that most new projects would be better served to be JSON-oriented, especially Web apps. "It doesn’t make sense to start a new project in XML unless it has data in XML form," he says.

He added people shouldn't migrate XML data to JSON for the sake of migrating, if what you have works, stick with it. And there are definitely pluses to XML, such as XML-based databases with queries and app logic all written in XML.

 

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