C JSON parser library that doesn't suck
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Public Domain JSON Parser for C

A public domain JSON parser focused on correctness, ANSI C99 compliance, full Unicode (UTF-8) support, minimal memory footprint, and a simple API. As a streaming API, arbitrary large JSON could be processed with a small amount of memory (the size of the largest string in the JSON). It seems most C JSON libraries suck in some significant way: broken string support (what if the string contains \u0000?), broken/missing Unicode support, or crappy software license (GPL or "do no evil"). This library intends to avoid these flaws.

The parser is intended to support exactly the JSON standard, no more, no less, so that even slightly non-conforming JSON is rejected. The input is assumed to be UTF-8, and all strings returned by the library are UTF-8 with possible nul characters in the middle, which is why the size output parameter is important. Encoded characters (\uxxxx) are decoded and re-encoded into UTF-8. UTF-16 surrogate pairs expressed as adjacent encoded characters are supported.

One exception to this rule is made to support a "streaming" mode. When a JSON "stream" contains multiple JSON objects (optionally separated by JSON whitespace), the default behavior of the parser is to allow the stream to be "reset," and to continue parsing the stream.

The library is usable and nearly complete, but needs polish.

API Overview

All parser state is attached to a json_stream struct. Its fields should not be accessed directly. To initialize, it can be "opened" on an input FILE * stream or memory buffer. It's disposed of by being "closed."

void json_open_stream(json_stream *json, FILE * stream);
void json_open_string(json_stream *json, const char *string);
void json_open_buffer(json_stream *json, const void *buffer, size_t size);
void json_close(json_stream *json);

After opening a stream, custom allocator callbacks can be specified, in case allocations should not come from a system-supplied malloc. (When no custom allocator is specified, the system allocator is used.)

struct json_allocator {
    void *(*malloc)(size_t);
    void *(*realloc)(void *, size_t);
    void (*free)(void *);

void json_set_allocator(json_stream *json, json_allocator *a);

By default only one value is read from the stream. The parser can be reset to read more objects. The overall line number and position are preserved.

void json_reset(json_stream *json);

If strict conformance to the JSON standard is desired, streaming mode can be disabled by calling json_set_streaming and setting the mode to false. This will cause any non-whitespace trailing data to trigger a parse error.

void json_set_streaming(json_stream *json, bool mode);

The JSON is parsed as a stream of events (enum json_type). The stream is in the indicated state, during which data can be queried and retrieved.

enum json_type json_next(json_stream *json);
enum json_type json_peek(json_stream *json);

const char *json_get_string(json_stream *json, size_t *length);
double json_get_number(json_stream *json);

Numbers can also be retrieved by json_get_string(), which will return the raw text number as it appeared in the JSON. This is useful if better precision is required.

In the case of a parse error, the event will be JSON_ERROR. The stream cannot be used again until it is reset. In the event of an error, a human-friendly, English error message is available, as well as the line number and byte position. (The line number and byte position are always available.)

const char *json_get_error(json_stream *json);
size_t json_get_lineno(json_stream *json);
size_t json_get_position(json_stream *json);

Outside of errors, a JSON_OBJECT event will always be followed by zero or more pairs of JSON_STRING (property name) events and their associated value events. That is, the stream of events will always be logical and consistent.