The power of JSON: what's behind the popularity?

by Sergey Zolkin
by Sergey Zolkin

What is JSON and why has it become one of the most preferred formats for data exchange?

The Internet is teeming with large amounts of data. Whether it's a mobile, web, or even desktop app, data processing has become vital to providing users with a tailor-made experience. The internal logic deciding how your application will respond to a given user request plays a significant role in the interaction between contemporary tech-savvy customers and your digital solution.

One of the powerful and popular tools today for fetching, processing, and exchanging data is JSON. It is an ingenious tool that has become ubiquitous in the programming world, allowing for consistent and responsive data exchange in the online space. 

What you will find out in this guide:

  • What is JSON
  • Why it is so widely used
  • A brief history of its emergence
  • Its inner technical aspects
  • JSON compared to XML.

JSON: essence, history, and usage

JavaScript Object Notation or JSON is a textual data interchange format designed for representing structured information based on JavaScript object syntax. However, it is not limited to the use of JavaScript. JSON is fully language-independent, enlisting the support of other modern programming languages like PHP, Python, or Java. 

To put it simply, it's a human-readable information exchange format that is generally applied to transfer data between a server and a web solution (a server-client interaction). Thus, JSON is regarded as a lightweight alternative to the "tabular" type of data storage, displaying information in an easy-to-read manner. For this reason, most technical experts prefer JSON, which has left behind other popular data processing options such as XML.

How did JSON come into being?

For a long time, XML has been the favored format for data sharing within a server-client interaction. However, in early 2000, Douglas Crockford introduced the JSON format, which quickly gained ground. By 2005, for example, major companies such as Yahoo! began using JSON in their web services. Previously, Flash or Java applets were used to establish a server-browser connection. However, JSON addressed the problem by providing a stateless and real-time instrument to connect both points without burdening the site with the introduction of additional plugins. 

Because of its efficiency, JSON quickly became a gold standard. Today, when 2 apps "interact" with each other, they most likely do so via JSON. Major players such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter use JSON. Twitter, for example, supported XML until 2013, when it released a new version of its API in which it gave up XML in favor of JSON.

How does JSON work, and why is it needed?

As already mentioned, the main function of JSON is the well-ordered storage of data during its browser-server or server-server exchange. At the same time, its text-oriented nature makes it easy to transfer data through any other online information-sharing channel. A perfect example is a web solution that processes and stores copious amounts of user data: for instance, the application for doctor appointments that gathers all the information related to appointments, potential complaints, possible follow-up consultations, case descriptions etc. With JSON, website user data is quite convenient to store, and information is usually available when you enter from another browser or device. Such a feature enables sites and web apps to update information without having to reload entire pages.

How JSON works

To delve a bit deeper into the technical aspect of the format, it is important to consider its syntax (i.e., the rules of text arrangement). Keys and values are the two main components of JSON that make up the key-value pair. For example, city and country are the keys, while Warsaw and Poland are the values.

Keys values

The basic concepts of JSON operation have been outlined. Now let's summarize the main thing: what it is used for.

JSON usage

JSON benefits

Easy to read

​​The JSON syntax in the "key/value pair" format is easy to convert and figure out for humans and computers alike.


JSON is an optimized data exchange format, taking up little memory in an app. What's more, it can be a great option for high-volume medical solutions that require storing and sharing massive amounts of data.


It is compatible with many сoding languages, frameworks, operating systems, and browsers that can immediately apply JSON "out of the box".

Self-dependent and flexible

JSON requires no external dependencies for its runtime and processing. Moreover, it supports a wide range of data types.

JSON benefits

JSON or XML: which is better?

Both technologies aim to organize complex data in an understandable and readable format for different APIs and coding languages. This, in turn, is a major attribute when dealing with massive amounts of data, as structured data ensures the successful exchange of information between various systems. However, despite the same purpose and similar popularity, JSON and XML have their unique traits.

While you are already familiar with the basic principles of JSON, it is time to find out more about XML before diving into their comparison.

XML stands for Extensible Markup Language, where a markup language refers to a set of symbols presented in human and computer-readable formats. Simply put, XML is a markup language designed to store data and facilitate its exchange by making "different systems universal". However, it is not a programming language because it does not execute algorithms and does not have "proprietary rules" for creating programs.

JSON and XML: the difference

Simplicity and size

As mentioned before, one of the most significant advantages of using JSON is its small file size and, therefore, faster data transfer. Moreover, JSON’s compactness with its minimal syntax and ease of reading makes it more user-friendly. In contrast, XML is often considered complex and outdated because of its tag structure, which makes files larger and more difficult to read. However, XML functionality is more extensive than JSON, as well as it supports a larger arsenal of data types (images and diagrams).

Note: To be honest, it is not quite right to compare JSON and XML since they are not direct substitutes for each. XML is a markup language, while JSON is a data format. Thus, JSON serves more for simple data transfer, while the complexity of XML allows it to handle and format documents as well. 

Data parsing

The key difference between JSON and XML, though, is the way they are parsed. JSON can be parsed via the integrated JavaScript function. XML, however, needs to be parsed with an XML parser, which is more complex and slower. On the other hand, some languages (Java, for example) have XML parsers as part of their library, making the process of parsing simpler.

In the end, the complexity of XML is justified by the extra functionality that JSON doesn't have yet. However, most tech experts are more likely to pick JSON in their digital product development workflow because of its lightweight and straightforward nature.


The bottom line

The technology choice seemed easy only when there was no option at all. Things are different in the current digital medical environment. As the volume of data grows, its proper processing and interchange are one of the keys to delivering a remarkable customer experience. JSON can be the right choice to achieve this goal. Our TechMed team is ready to support you with tech advice, or even more: start implementing a plan for the development of a turnkey solution for your medical business. Just contact us.

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