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Universal Binary JSON

Community workspace for the Universal Binary JSON Specification.


JSON has become a ubiquitous text-based file format for data interchange. Its simplicity, ease of processing and (relatively) rich data typing made it a natural choice for many developers needing to store or shuffle data between systems quickly and easy.

Unfortunately, marshaling native programming language constructs in and out of a text-based representations does have a measurable processing cost associated with it.

In high-performance applications, avoiding the text-processing step of JSON can net big wins in both processing time and size reduction of stored information, which is where a binary JSON format becomes helpful.


Attempts to make using JSON faster through binary specifications like BSON, BJSON or Smile exist, but have been rejected from mass-adoption for two reasons:

  • Custom (Binary-Only) Data Types: Inclusion of custom data types that have no ancillary in the original JSON spec, leaving room for incompatibilities to exist as different implementations of the spec handle the binary-only data types differently.
  • Complexity: Some specifications provide higher performance or smaller representations at the cost of a much more complex specification, making implementations more difficult which can slow or block adoption. One of the key reasons JSON became as popular as it did was because of its ease of use.


The Universal Binary JSON specification has 3 goals:

  1. Universal Compatibility

Meaning absolute compatibility with the JSON spec itself as well as only utilizing data types that are natively supported in all popular programming languages.

This allows 1:1 transforms between standard JSON and Universal Binary JSON as well as efficient representation in all popular programming languages without requiring parser developers to account for strange data types that their language may not support.

  1. Ease of Use

The Universal Binary JSON specification is intentionally defined using a single core data structure to build up the entire specification.

This accomplishes two things: it allows the spec to be understood quickly and allows developers to write trivially simple code to take advantage of it or interchange data with another system utilizing it.

  1. Speed / Efficiency

Typically the motivation for using a binary specification over a text-based one is speed and/or efficiency, so strict attention was paid to selecting data constructs and representations that are (roughly) 30% smaller than their compacted JSON counterparts and optimized for fast parsing.

Got interested? Find more at


Community workspace for the Universal Binary JSON Specification.






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