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the protocol

dnode uses newline-terminated JSON messages. Each side of the connection may request that a method be invoked on the other side.

data fields

All messages have this format:

  • method :: String or Integer
  • arguments :: Array
  • callbacks :: Object
  • links :: Array

When the method field is a string, it refers to a named method at the remote. When the method field is an integer, it refers to an anonymous function declared in the callbacks field of a previous request.

The arguments field contains the data to supply the remote method or callback. The callbacks field maps an integral callback ID to an Array of elements representing the callback's path in the arguments structure. For instance, an arguments array before transformation of

[ 50, 3, { "b" : function () {}, "c" : 4 }, function () {} ]

could result in a callback field of

{ 103 : [ 2, "b" ], 104 : [ 3 ] }

if the functions were assigned IDs of 103 and 104 from left to right respectively. Function 103 is in the object at element index 2 and at the key "b", so its path is [ 2, "b" ]. Function 104 is just at index 3 in the argument field so its path is just [ 3 ].

The contents of the arguments array at a callback location is not used, so it may contain any value or may be left undefined.

The Array and Object fields can be omitted, in which case they default to [] and {}.


After the connection is established, each side should send a message with the method field set to "methods". The arguments fields should contain an array with a single element: the object that should be wrapped. The callbacks field is populated from the arguments array given the procedure above.

Example of this initial methods message:

    "method" : "methods",
    "arguments" : [ { "timesTen" : "[Function]", "moo" : "[Function]" } ],
    "callbacks" : { "0" : ["0","timesTen"], "1" : ["0","moo"] }

Note that the string "[Function]" is just a placeholder and its value is unimportant.

After methods are exchanged, each side may request methods from the other based on named keys or numeric callback IDs.


An optional field, "links" supports representing cyclic data structures over JSON. The "links" field is an array of hashes with "from" and "to" keys set. The values of the "from" and "two" keys are array encoding paths through the data structure from the root, as in the "callbacks" field.

Example of a method call with cyclic references:

    "method" : 12,
    "arguments" : [ { "a" : 5, "b" : [ { "c" : 5 } ] } ],
    "callbacks" : {},
    "links" : [ { "from" : [ 0 ], "to" : [ 0, "b", 1 ] } ]

This example creates a link to the first argument within the first argument's "b" key's second element. The previous data structure could be generated from the following javascript where fn comes from the remote:

var data = { a : 5, b : [ { c : 5 } ] };

Note that links need not necessarily be cyclic, they can just more efficiently encode duplicate data, for instance.