1 JSON Data (Standard)

JSON as defined by its standards is described.

1.1 Overview of JSON

JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) is defined in standards ECMA-404 (JSON Data Interchange Format), IETF RFC 8259, and ECMA-262 (ECMAScript Language Specification, third edition). The JavaScript dialect of ECMAScript is a general programming language used widely in web browsers and web servers.

JSON is almost a subset of the object literal notation of JavaScript.Foot 1 Because it can be used to represent JavaScript object literals, JSON commonly serves as a data-interchange language. In this it has much in common with XML.

Because it is (almost a subset of) JavaScript notation, JSON can often be used in JavaScript programs without any need for parsing or serializing. It is a text-based way of representing JavaScript object literals, arrays, and scalar data.

Although it was defined in the context of JavaScript, JSON is in fact a language-independent data format. A variety of programming languages can parse and generate JSON data.

JSON is relatively easy for humans to read and write, and easy for software to parse and generate. It is often used for serializing structured data and exchanging it over a network, typically between a server and web applications.

See Also:

1.2 JSON Syntax and the Data It Represents

Standard JSON values, scalars, objects, and arrays are described.

According to the JSON standard, a JSON value is one of the following JSON-language data types: object, array, number, string, Boolean (value true or false), or null (value null). All values except objects and arrays are scalar.


A JSON value of null is a value as far as SQL is concerned. It is not NULL, which in SQL represents the absence of a value (missing, unknown, or inapplicable data). In particular, SQL condition IS NULL returns false for a JSON null value, and SQL condition IS NOT NULL returns true.

Standard JSON has no date data type (unlike both XML and JavaScript). A date is represented in standard JSON using the available standard data types, such as string. There are some de facto standards for converting between dates and JSON strings. But typically programs using standard JSON data must, one way or another, deal with date representation conversion.

A JavaScript object is an associative array, or dictionary, of zero or more pairs of property names and associated JSON values.Foot 2 A JSON object is a JavaScript object literal.Foot 3 It is written as such a property list enclosed in braces ({, }), with name–value pairs separated by commas (,), and with the name and value of each pair separated by a colon (:). (Whitespace before or after the comma or colon is optional and insignificant.)

In JSON each property name and each string value must be enclosed in double quotation marks ("). In JavaScript notation, a property name used in an object literal can be, but need not be, enclosed in double quotation marks. It can also be enclosed in single quotation marks (').

As a result of this difference, in practice, data that is represented using unquoted or single-quoted property names is sometimes referred to loosely as being represented in JSON, and some implementations of JSON, including the Oracle Database implementation, support the lax syntax that allows the use of unquoted and single-quoted property names.

A string in JSON is composed of Unicode characters, with backslash (\) escaping. A JSON number (numeral) is represented in decimal notation, possibly signed and possibly including a decimal exponent.

An object property is typically called a field. It is sometimes called a key, but this documentation generally uses “field” to avoid confusion with other uses here of the word “key”. An object property name–value pair is often called an object member (but sometimes member can mean just the property). Order is not significant among object members.


  • A JSON field name can be empty (written "").Foot 4

  • Each field name in a given JSON object is not necessarily unique; the same field name can be repeated. The SQL/JSON path evaluation that Oracle Database employs always uses only one of the object members that have a given field name; any other members with the same name are ignored. It is unspecified which of multiple such members is used.

    See also Unique Versus Duplicate Fields in JSON Objects.

A JavaScript array has zero or more elements. A JSON array is represented by brackets ([, ]) surrounding the representations of the array elements (also called items), which are separated by commas (,), and each of which is an object, an array, or a scalar value. Array element order is significant. (Whitespace before or after a bracket or comma is optional and insignificant.)

Example 1-1 A JSON Object (Representation of a JavaScript Object Literal)

This example shows a JSON object that represents a purchase order, with top-level field names PONumber, Reference, Requestor, User, CostCenter, ShippingInstruction, Special Instructions, AllowPartialShipment and LineItems.

{ "PONumber"             : 1600,
  "Reference"            : "ABULL-20140421",
  "Requestor"            : "Alexis Bull",
  "User"                 : "ABULL",
  "CostCenter"           : "A50",
  "ShippingInstructions" : { "name"   : "Alexis Bull",
                             "Address": { "street"  : "200 Sporting Green",
                                          "city"    : "South San Francisco",
                                          "state"   : "CA",
                                          "zipCode" : 99236,
                                          "country" : "United States of America" },
                             "Phone" : [ { "type"   : "Office", 
                                           "number" : "909-555-7307" },
                                         { "type"   : "Mobile",
                                           "number" : "415-555-1234" } ] },
  "Special Instructions" : null,
  "AllowPartialShipment" : false,
  "LineItems"            : [ { "ItemNumber" : 1,
                               "Part"       : { "Description" : "One Magic Christmas",
                                                "UnitPrice"   : 19.95,
                                                "UPCCode"     : 13131092899 },
                               "Quantity"   : 9.0 },
                             { "ItemNumber" : 2,
                               "Part"       : { "Description" : "Lethal Weapon",
                                                "UnitPrice"   : 19.95,
                                                "UPCCode"     : 85391628927 },
                               "Quantity"   : 5.0 } ] }
  • Most of the fields here have string values. For example: field User has value "ABULL".

  • Fields PONumber and zipCode have numeric values: 1600 and 99236.

  • Field ShippingInstructions has an object as its value. This object has three members, with fields name, Address, and Phone. Field name has a string value ("Alexis Bull").

  • The value of field Address is an object with fields street, city, state, zipCode, and country. Field zipCode has a numeric value; the others have string values.

  • Field Phone has an array as value. This array has two elements, each of which is an object. Each of these objects has two members: fields type and number with their values.

  • Field Special Instructions has a null value.

  • Field AllowPartialShipment has the Boolean value false.

  • Field LineItems has an array as value. This array has two elements, each of which is an object. Each of these objects has three members, with fields ItemNumber, Part, and Quantity.

  • Fields ItemNumber and Quantity have numeric values. Field Part has an object as value, with fields Description, UnitPrice, and UPCCode. Field Description has a string value. Fields UnitPrice and UPCCode have numeric values.

See Also:

Example 4-3

1.3 JSON Compared with XML

Both JSON and XML (Extensible Markup Language) are commonly used as data-interchange languages. Their main differences are listed here.

JSON is most useful with simple, structured data. XML is useful for both structured and semi-structured data. JSON is generally data-centric, not document-centric; XML can be either. JSON is not a markup language; it is designed only for data representation. XML is both a document markup language and a data representation language.

  • JSON data types are few and predefined. XML data can be either typeless or based on an XML schema or a document type definition (DTD).

  • JSON has simple structure-defining and document-combining constructs: it lacks attributes, namespaces, inheritance, and substitution.

  • The order of the members of a JavaScript object literal is insignificant. In general, order matters within an XML document.

  • JSON lacks an equivalent of XML text nodes (XPath node test text()). In particular, this means that there is no mixed content (which is another way of saying that JSON is not a markup language).

Because of its simple definition and features, JSON data is generally easier to generate, parse, and process than XML data. Use cases that involve combining different data sources generally lend themselves well to the use of XML, because it offers namespaces and other constructs facilitating modularity and inheritance.

Footnote Legend

Footnote 1:

JSON differs from JavaScript notation in this respect: JSON allows unescaped Unicode characters U+2028 (LINE SEPARATOR) and U+2029 (PARAGRAPH SEPARATOR) in strings. JavaScript notation requires control characters such as these to be escaped in strings. This difference can be important when generating JSONP (JSON with padding) data.

Footnote 2:

JavaScript objects are thus similar to hash tables in C and C++, HashMaps in Java, associative arrays in PHP, dictionaries in Python, and hashes in Perl and Ruby.

Footnote 3:

An object is created in JavaScript using either constructor Object or object literal syntax: {...}.

Footnote 4: In a few contexts an empty field name cannot be used with Oracle Database. Wherever it can be used, the name must be wrapped with double quotation marks.