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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dave Winer on JSON vs XML

Over at Friendfeed, an interesting dialog between Google employee DeWitt Clinton and Dave Winer:

Dave, if you could go back in time, would you have used JSON instead of XML for RSS, OPML, XML-RPC, etc, had JSON been popularized at the time?

The reason I ask is that most of those protocols and formats don’t use much of the extras that XML is required for (schemas, namespaces, attributes, data escaping, etc). Simple key/value/dict/array/string/number structures would be sufficient in all those cases. If you could take a do-over, would you?

Great question! And if you look at how I use XML, you know the answer is yes. I have no love for XML, I thought it was over engineered, and too much was promised for it, but everyone wanted to do it, and that convinced me. The important thing is the consensus. One way to do things. And the second guy to come along has the power to make the standard, and in XML I was one of the “second guys” (the first wave were the guys at Microsoft, Netscape, Sun, etc).

So, by accepting the invitation to design my own formats as long as I used XML, I thought everyone would be happy. Turned out not to be so, they wanted to control things all the way up to the top of the stack, the arguments never stopped. That’s what I like about JSON, it has a low-techness to it, no fuss, no pretension. That’s how I viewed XML.

But... Look at what we were able to do with XML. One of the proudest moments for me was when Eric Raymond discovered XML-RPC and said it had the same philosophy as Unix. I grew up on Unix as Unix was growing up, and that’s the highest compliment, I could write a book on why Unix does so much yet is so empty and open. That’s what I hope for everything I do.

[Via Paul.]


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