JSON streaming are communications protocols to delimit JSON objects built upon lower-level stream-oriented protocols (such as TCP), that ensures individual JSON objects are recognized
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, when the server and clients use the same one (e.g. implicitly coded in).
JSON is a popular format for exchanging object data between systems. Frequently there’s a need for a stream of objects to be sent over a single connection, such as a stock ticker or application log records
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. In these cases there’s a need to identify where one JSON encoded object ends and the next begins. Technically this is known as framing.
There are two common ways to achieve this:
Line delimited JSON streaming makes use of the fact that the JSON format does not allow newline characters within values (they have to be escaped as `\n`) and that most JSON formatters default to not including any whitespace, including newlines. These features allows the newline characters to be used as a delimiter.
This example shows two JSON objects (the implicit newline characters at the end of each line are not shown):
The use of a newline as a delimiter enables this format to work very well with traditional line-oriented UNIX tools.
Concatenated JSON streaming allows the sender to simply write each JSON object into the stream with no delimiters. It relies on the receiver using a streaming parser to recognize and emit each JSON object as the terminating character is parsed. Concatenated JSON isn’t a new format, it’s simply a name for streaming multiple JSON objects without any delimiters.
The advantage of this format is that it can handle JSON objects that have been formatted with embedded newline characters, e.g., pretty-printed for human readability. For example, these two inputs are both valid and produce the same output:
Implementations that rely on line-based input may require a newline character after each JSON object in order for the object to be emitted by the parser in a timely manner. (Otherwise the line may remain in the input buffer without being passed to the parser.) This is rarely recognised as an issue because terminating JSON objects with a newline character is very common.
Line delimited JSON works very well with traditional line-oriented tools.
Concatenated JSON works with pretty-printed JSON but requires more effort and complexity to parse. It doesn’t work well with traditional line-oriented tools. Concatenated JSON streaming is a superset of line delimited JSON streaming.
Line delimited JSON can be read by a parser that can handle concatenated JSON. Concatenated JSON that contains newlines within a JSON object can’t be read by a line delimited JSON parser.
The terms “line delimited JSON” and “newline delimited JSON” are often used without clarifying if embedded newlines are supported.
There’s also a format known as NDJ (“Newline delimited JSON”) which allows comments to be embedded if the first two characters of a given line are “//”. This can’t be used with standard JSON parsers if comments are included.
Concatenated JSON can be converted into Line delimited JSON by a suitable JSON utility such as . For example