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Posted in XML, JSON

XML (Extensible Markup Language) has been around for more than 3 decades now and it is an integral part of every web application. Be it a configuration file, mapping document or a schema definition, XML made life easier for data interchange by giving a clear structure to data and helping in dynamic configuration and loading of variables!

JSON stores all of its data in a map format (key/value pairs) that was neat and easier to comprehend. JSON is said to be slowly replacing XML because of several benefits like ease of data modeling or mapping directly to domain objects, more predictability and easy to understand the structure. A lot of developers who have used both do not completely agree with this though!

Comparison Between JSON vs XML

For starters, JSON is just a data format whereas XML is a markup language. You can actually place a query and get your answer through XPath. Similarly, metadata, attributes, and namespaces can be added in XML. Further, XML along with XSL, XSD, XQuery, etc. makes for a powerful combination. These are some important features that still set XML a class apart.

In any case, if a project requires document markup and metadata information, it is better to use XML, otherwise for a more organized data interchange JSON could be your preferred choice.

XML (Extensible Markup Language)

XML is the default choice for data interchange because virtually every language has a parser for it, be it Java, .net or any others. It is easy to fetch particular data from XML and there are schemas that can validate the XML. XML is used extensively in today’s ‘e’ world – banking services, online retail stores, integrating industrial systems, etc.

One can put as many different types of information in the XML and it still remains simple. Here are a few common benefits of XML –

  • Create interactive web pages, store and render content data to the user based on processing logic using the XSLT processor.
  • Gives provision to define metadata in a reusable and portable format.
  • More accurate web search results because data is stored inside tags.
  • Makes information exchanges like b2b transactions and b2c transactions easy and more accessible.
  • Several web tasks can be automated making them efficient.

If you have worked extensively with XML, you can appreciate both the merits and demerits of the same. The biggest demerit is the complex parser code using SAX or DOM, which is an additional overhead for developers.

JSON (JavaScript Object Notation)

A better option for XML for data transfers, JSON definitely requires less coding and has a smaller size, making it faster to process and transmit data. Moreover, though it is written in JavaScript, it is language-independent. But, that’s all JSON can do. It doesn’t have any of the powerful validation and schema related features that XML has.

So, what makes JSON so popular?

With the popularity of REST APIs over SOAP/WSDL model, JSON gained momentum in the programming of API code and web services. It is text-based, light-weight and has an easy to parse data format requiring no additional code for parsing. JSON thus helps in faster data interchange and web service results. So, for web services, that need to just return a lot of data and display the same, the ideal choice is JSON!

Structure of XML vs JSON

Let us see the structure of each to appreciate the above point more –

XML (Extensible Markup Language) JSON (JavaScript Object Notation)
 Cloud computing </technology >

 "id": "01",
 "name": "Adam",
"technology": "Cloud computing",
 "title": "Engineer",
 "team": "Development"

As we see, the tag structure certainly adds some complexity, while the JSON format seems like reading a simple text!

Moreover, with JavaScript based frameworks like node JS getting more acceptance by the day, when the front-end code is in JavaScript, getting data in JSON format makes it easy to load data into an object tree.

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Another scenario where JSON scores over XML are when you want to export data from a web app to a database. JSON is a perfect file format for such conversions because every programming language is capable of parsing JSON – a truly open standard and interoperable format!

JSON has bigger roles to play in the future as with the advent of cloud computing and APIs, the need for proper storage and transfer of data is huge now and is likely to grow further in future.

We have seen how both JSON and XML have their own benefits and cons and compared how each can work well in different web application scenarios. Let us summarize the above points as well as understand some more differences that can give you further clarity –

XML (Extensible Markup Language) JSON (JavaScript Object Notation)
XML is a markup language, not a programming language, that has tags to define elements. JSON is just a format written in JavaScript.
XML data is stored as a tree structure. Example –

Data is stored like a map with key value pairs. Example –
{“employees”: [
 {"id":"2001", “name":"Varsha"}, 
 {"id":"2002", "name":"Akash"}
Can perform processing and formatting documents and objects. It does not do any processing or computation
Bulky and slow in parsing, leading to slower data transmission Very fast as the size of file is considerably small, faster parsing by the JavaScript engine and hence faster transfer of data
Supports namespaces, comments and metadata There is no provision for namespace, adding comments or writing metadata
Document size is bulky and with big files, the tag structure makes it huge and complex to read. Compact and easy to read, no redundant or empty tags or data, making the file look simple.
Doesn’t support array directly. To be able to use array, one has to add tags for each item.

Supports array which can be accessed as –
x = student.subjects[i];
where “subjects” is an array as –
“subjects”: [“science”, “math”, “computers”]
Supports many complex data types including charts, images and other non-primitive data types. JSON supports only strings, numbers, arrays Boolean and object. Even object can only contain primitive types.
XML supports UTF-8 and UTF-16 encodings. JSON supports UTF as well as ASCII encodings.
XML structures are prone to some attacks as external entity expansion and DTD validation are enabled by default. When these are disabled, XML parsers are safer. JSON parsing is safe almost all the time except if JSONP is used, which can lead to Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) attack.
Though the X is AJAX stands for XML, because of the tags in XML, a lot of bandwidth is unnecessarily consumed, making AJAX requests slow. As data is serially processed in JSON, using it with AJAX ensures faster processing and hence preferable. Data can be easily manipulated using eval() method.


As both JSON and XML seem to solve a somewhat similar purpose, the comparison is mostly based on the features and benefits of each. The bottom line is that if you have simple data exchanges that need not bother about semantics and validation, go for JSON. But, even with JSON, it is essential to learn XML and related technologies to do more than just data exchange and fast processing! JSON still has a long way to go before it comes at par with the powers of the ‘old is gold’ XML.

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Ramya Shankar

Ramya Shankar

A cheerful, full of life and vibrant person, I hold a lot of dreams that I want to fulfill on my own. My passion for writing started with small diary entries and travel blogs, after which I have moved on to writing well-researched technical content. I find it fascinating to blend thoughts and research and shape them into something beautiful through my writing. View all posts by the Author

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