JSON vs XML: An overview in 350 words or less

JSON and XML are both formats for data storage and transmission. They provide a way to transfer or store information in a structured way — making it easier for others to understand.

Both formats are commonly used with application programming interfaces (APIs). Both are readable by humans, and both are hierarchical (that is, they support values within values).

But what differentiates them?

Here’s a brief overview of JSON vs XML, crunched down into 350 words or less.

What is XML?

XML is shorthand for ‘Extensible Markup Language’. It’s a markup language that outlines the rules for formatting documents and data. Its job is to provide a standardised way to transfer data from one system to another.

As a language, XML is like HTML but for data that’s machine-readable. Just as HTML acts like the base structure for a webpage, XML acts as the base structure for data a machine can read.

What is JSON?

JSON is shorthand for JavaScript Object Notation. It’s derived from JavaScript and uses human-readable text to store and transmit data.

JSON is taking over from XML in many areas. A common use for JSON is to exchange information between web clients and servers.

JSON vs XML: key differences

The big question when it comes to JSON vs XML is “what are the differences between them?”

  • Type of data

JSON supports data in text and number format. XML can do this, but also support images, charts, graphs, documents, and so on.

  • Parsing

Despite its origins with JavaScript, many programming languages can generate and parse data in JSON format.

XML-formatted data, meanwhile, must be parsed using an XML parser.

  • Comments

JSON does not support comments, whereas XML does. Comments can aid in the human-readability of code.

  • Length

JSON code is typically (though not always) shorter than XML, which is more verbose, even when handling the same data.


Both JSON and XML serve a similar purpose. In general, JSON is simpler than XML. The payoff is that XML is more powerful.

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