JSON vs XML: Which One Should You Choose?

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JSON vs XML: Which One Should You Choose?

Khushboo Sharma
Last updated on May 30, 2024

    From desktop to web and mobile applications, almost all applications rely on one of the two leading API (Application Program Interface) data formats, namely XML and JSON. Both JSON and XML data formats serve a similar purpose of storing and transferring data.

    XML has been used extensively since its inception, and today, it has become an indispensable part of web applications. On the other hand, JSON is well-known for processing and transferring data quickly and requires less coding. They both share some similarities that are as follows:

    • XML and JSON are self-describing, i.e., XML data and JSON data are human-readable.
    • They both support a hierarchical structure, i.e., they support values within values.
    • Many programming languages use JSON and XMA as data interchange formats.
    • Both these formats can be parsed easily and can be retrieved using HTTP requests.

    This article highlights the key differences between JSON and XML. But before proceeding to the differences, let us have an overview of JSON and XML.

    What is JSON?

    JSON stands for JavaScript Object Notation. It is a data interchange and open standard file format that stores and transmits data objects using human-readable text. Also, the data objects consisting of attribute-value pairs and arrays. This data interchange format is built on two structures:

    • An ordered list of values, which is realized as an array, list, sequence, or vector in other programming languages.
    • A collection of name-value pairs, which is referred to as a struct, object, keyed list, hash table, record, dictionary, or associative array in other languages.

    As JSON is derived from JavaScript, it is a primary data interchange format for all JavaScript applications. Interestingly, it is a language-independent data interchange format, which means that we can use it with many other modern programming languages, including Python, Ruby, Perl, PHP, C, C++, C#, Java, and Lisp. All these programming languages include code for generating and parsing JSON data.


    In the early 2000s, Douglas Crockford specified the JSON format. Later, the year 2002 witnessed the launch of the ‘JSON.org’ website. Since 2005, Yahoo! Started providing its web services in JSON. In 2013, JSON became an ECMA international standard, which was identified as ECMA-404.

    The most updated JSON format standard was published in 2017. The file extension for JSON files is .json. The Uniform Type Identifier of JSON is public.json, and the Internet Media Type is application/json.

    Uses of JSON

    The following are the key uses of JSON:

    • JSON serializes and transmits structured data over a network connection.
    • It transmits data between a server and web applications.
    • Application Program Interfaces (APIs) and web services use JSON to provide public data.

    Advantages of JSON

    The benefits of using JSON are listed below:

    • JSON provides support for almost all modern browsers, like Safari, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and Firefox.
    • It has a simple syntax, which is easy to read and understand.
    • All major backend technologies and JavaScript frameworks support JSON.
    • We can parse JSON in JavaScript using the eval() function.
    • It consumes little memory space, and hence, offers high performance.

    Disadvantages of JSON

    Below are some downsides of JSON:

    • JSON has poor extensibility due to the lack of support for a namespace.
    • It does not have error handling for JSON calls.
    • It can be quite dangerous to use JSON with untrusted browsers because such browsers can hack a JSON response returned by a JSON service when they execute a function call, making the hosting web application vulnerable to attacks.

    What is XML?

    XML stands for Extensible Markup Language. It defines rules for encoding documents in a machine-readable and human-readable format. It is derived from Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML). The structure of an XML document is defined by using Document Type Definitions (DTD).

    The XML’s design emphasizes usability, simplicity, and generality across the internet. Also, the design of XML primarily concentrates on documents, but it is used for representing arbitrary data structures. It is effortless and straightforward to retrieve data from XML, and also there are schemas to validate the XML. The filename extension of XML is .XML.


    A working group of eleven members compiled XML supported by a 150-member Interest Group. These members never met face-to-face, and they accomplished the design of XML communicating via email and weekly teleconferences. They published the Working Draft of an XML in 1996, and in 1998, XML1.0 became a W3C Recommendation. The latest version of XML is XML 1.1, which got published in 2006.

    Uses of XML

    The following are the uses of XML:

    • XML is used to store and arrange data, exchange information between systems and organizations, and offload and reload databases.
    • Any type of data can be expressed as an XML document.
    • It is used in various aspects of web development.
    • It simplifies the creation of HTML documents for large websites.

    Advantages of XML

    The benefits of working with XML are as follows:

    • XML enables us to exchange data effortlessly and quickly between different platforms, making documents transportable across various systems and applications.
    • We can create user-defined tags in XML.
    • It separates data from HTML.
    • XML simplifies the platform change process.

    Disadvantages of XML

    Some drawbacks of XML are:

    • As XML’s syntax is analogous to other ‘text-based’ data transfer protocols, it might seem confusing at times.
    • It has redundant syntax, which may affect an application’s efficiency through higher storage, transmission, and processing cost.
    • XML documents are linked using XLink, which is relatively more complex than hyperlinks.
    • To some people, the distinction between XML content and attributes seems unnatural, and hence, designing XML data structures becomes harder.

    JSON vs XML Code

    We shall write code in JSON and XML that defines an object ‘students’ having an array of 4 students.

    JSON Code

    { "students": [ { "name":"Sam", "studId":"S01" },{ "name":"Ava", "studId":"S02" }, { "name":"Henry", "studId":"S03" }, { "name":"Harry", "studId":"S04" } ] }

    XML Code

    <students> <student> <name>Sam</name> <studId>S01</studId> </student> <student> <name>Ava</name> <studId>S02</studId> </student> <student> <name>Henry</name> <studId>S03</studId> </student> <student> <name>Harry</name> <studId>S04</studId> </student> </students>

    JSON vs XML: Head to Head Comparison

    The following table highlights the key differences between JSON and XML data formats:

    JSON is just a data interchange format written in JavaScript. XML is a markup language and not a programming language.
    It stores data in the form of attribute-value pairs and arrays. It uses a tree-like structure to store data.
    JSON does not provide support for writing metadata, adding comments, and namespaces. XML supports namespaces, metadata, and comments.
    JSON files are easier to read than XML files. XML files are difficult to read and understand.
    It does not perform any computation or processing. It can process and format documents and objects.
    JSON supports arrays. XML does not support the array directly. Instead, we need to add tags to each data item.
    It is more secure than XML. Only if JSONP is used, it may result in a Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) attack. In XML, the DTD validation and external entity expansion are enabled by default. Therefore, XML structures are vulnerable to attacks.
    JSON supports UTF-8 and ASCII encodings. XML supports UTF-8 and UTF-16 encodings.
    The data types supported in JSON are string, numbers, arrays, boolean, and objects. It supports non-primitive data types, including charts and images.
    JSON does not support comments. XML supports comments.
    It cannot display data. As XML is a markup language, it can display data.


    Choosing XML would be beneficial if your API works with more complex information and contains a lot of parameters and details. On the other hand, picking JSON would be a great move if data exchange is the only motive and there’s nothing to bother about validation and semantics.

    Moreover, JSON is often used to transmit data between clients and servers, whereas XML is used to describe data in web applications or share podcasts or articles over RSS. Therefore, depending on your requirements, you can choose either XML or JSON.

    People are also reading:


    JSON is an ideal data interchange format for common applications, while XML is excellent for enterprise-grade applications with complex requirements.

    The 3 reasons for preferring JSON over XML are: 1. JSON is easier to read than XML in its expanded form. 2. JSON has a lower character count, reducing the overhead in data transfer. 3. It is easier to parse.

    XML is a more secure data interchange format than JSON.

    For RPC communication-style, JSON is definitely replacing XML.

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