jsonvsxmlFor a while, XML was the only choice for open data sharing. There were no other open formats available and XML was hailed to be the do-everything solution to data sharing problems. This one format could handle classical data like numbers and text, but it could also manage documents, formatting, images, audio, video, and much more. Now that other options have become available, XML can be overkill in a lot of ways. Today, we are often faced with the choice between JSON and XML when creating data files. If you’re learning to be a web developer, you should learn about both. Here are some differences to help inform your choice:

Simplicity, Openness, & Interoperability

In terms of simplicity, openness, and interoperability, JSON and XML are tied. Sure, you’ll find people on both sides of each of these issues arguing for their favorite. However, when you strip away their opinions and dig down to the facts, there isn’t much difference between JSON and XML in terms of simplicity, openness, and interoperability.

Self-Describing Data & Internationalization

Another common trait that JSON and XML share is the implementation of self-describing data and internationalization. Both of these standards use Unicode standards and they both create data in a way the allows generic tools to manipulate the data. This makes these formats very easy to distribute to a wide range of users.


With JSON, you are limited to only storing classical data like text and numbers. However, XML allows you to store any data type you can come up with. The ability to extend the attributes of the data stored in XML files is what allows it to be more flexible than JSON. However, it also makes it more difficult to read. This makes XML more extensible, but that may not be a good thing. This depends on the type of information you are trying to transfer. Documents require extensibility to manage images, charts, graphs, and other elements of formatting. However, classical data does not require this extensibility and can benefit from the simplicity of JSON. This course about APIs covers the extensibility of XML and the use of JSON in much more detail.

Human Readable

Both XML and JSON files are said to be human readable. At least, they are understandable to programmers that work with these file formats. However, JSON files are more restrictive and therefore slightly more readable. This is because the number of data formats supported by JSON if much smaller than with XML. Additionally, the structure of the data is more standardized with JSON files due to the fact that there are fewer options when compared with XML formatting.

Complete Integration Of All Formats

With XML it is possible to attach any file of any format. On the other hand, JSON only supports traditional data formats. This means it is possible to include photos, audio, video, and other files within an XML file. While this may seem like a good thing at first, it can also be dangerous. That’s because you could also include an executable file which could have dangerous consequences to security. The simplicity of the data structures that JSON supports makes this exploit impossible using this format.

Sharing Traditional Data

JSON is the best tool for sharing data. This is because the data is stored in arrays and records while XML stores data in trees. Both have their advantages, but data transfers are much easier when the data is stored in a structure that is familiar to object-oriented languages. This makes it very easy to import data from a JSON file into Perl, Ruby, Javascript, Python, and many other languages. You can learn all about this from an online course about APIs. In order to do the same thing with XML, you would need to first transform the data before it can be imported. You can learn how by enrolling in a course about XML. For this reason, JSON is a superior file format for web APIs. You can learn about these benefits from a class that covers the basics of APIs.

Sharing Documents

When you want to share documents, XML is the right tool for the job. This is because it allows you to include data types like images, charts, and graphs. Additionally, XML offers options for transferring the structure, or format, of the data along with the actual data. JSON only offers options for transferring data without formatting, and only using traditional data formats. This makes XML the superior format for documents.

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