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Binary Values

The library implements several binary formats that encode JSON in an efficient way. Most of these formats support binary values; that is, values that have semantics define outside the library and only define a sequence of bytes to be stored.

JSON itself does not have a binary value. As such, binary values are an extension that this library implements to store values received by a binary format. Binary values are never created by the JSON parser, and are only part of a serialized JSON text if they have been created manually or via a binary format.

API for binary values

uml diagram

By default, binary values are stored as std::vector<std::uint8_t>. This type can be changed by providing a template parameter to the basic_json type. To store binary subtypes, the storage type is extended and exposed as json::binary_t:

auto binary = json::binary_t({0xCA, 0xFE, 0xBA, 0xBE});
auto binary_with_subtype = json::binary_t({0xCA, 0xFE, 0xBA, 0xBE}, 42);

There are several convenience functions to check and set the subtype:

binary.has_subtype();                   // returns false
binary_with_subtype.has_subtype();      // returns true

binary_with_subtype.clear_subtype();
binary_with_subtype.has_subtype();      // returns true

binary_with_subtype.set_subtype(42);
binary.set_subtype(23);

binary.subtype();                       // returns 23

As json::binary_t is subclassing std::vector<std::uint8_t>, all member functions are available:

binary.size();  // returns 4
binary[1];      // returns 0xFE

JSON values can be constructed from json::binary_t:

json j = binary;

Binary values are primitive values just like numbers or strings:

j.is_binary();    // returns true
j.is_primitive(); // returns true

Given a binary JSON value, the binary_t can be accessed by reference as via get_binary():

j.get_binary().has_subtype();  // returns true
j.get_binary().size();         // returns 4

For convencience, binary JSON values can be constructed via json::binary:

auto j2 = json::binary({0xCA, 0xFE, 0xBA, 0xBE}, 23);
auto j3 = json::binary({0xCA, 0xFE, 0xBA, 0xBE});

j2 == j;                        // returns true
j3.get_binary().has_subtype();  // returns false

Serialization

Binary values are serialized differently according to the formats.

JSON

JSON does not have a binary type, and this library does not introduce a new type as this would break conformance. Instead, binary values are serialized as an object with two keys: bytes holds an array of integers, and subtype is an integer or null.

Example

Code:

// create a binary value of subtype 42
json j;
j["binary"] = json::binary({0xCA, 0xFE, 0xBA, 0xBE}, 42);

// serialize to standard output
std::cout << j.dump(2) << std::endl;

Output:

{
  "binary": {
    "bytes": [202, 254, 186, 190],
    "subtype": 42
  }
}

No roundtrip for binary values

The JSON parser will not parse the objects generated by binary values back to binary values. This is by design to remain standards compliant. Serializing binary values to JSON is only implemented for debugging purposes.

BSON

BSON supports binary values and subtypes. If a subtype is given, it is used and added as unsigned 8-bit integer. If no subtype is given, the generic binary subtype 0x00 is used.

Example

Code:

// create a binary value of subtype 42
json j;
j["binary"] = json::binary({0xCA, 0xFE, 0xBA, 0xBE}, 42);

// convert to BSON
auto v = json::to_bson(j);      

v is a std::vector<std::uint8t> with the following 22 elements:

0x16 0x00 0x00 0x00                         // number of bytes in the document
    0x05                                    // binary value
        0x62 0x69 0x6E 0x61 0x72 0x79 0x00  // key "binary" + null byte
        0x04 0x00 0x00 0x00                 // number of bytes
        0x2a                                // subtype
        0xCA 0xFE 0xBA 0xBE                 // content
0x00                                        // end of the document

Note that the serialization preserves the subtype, and deserializing v would yield the following value:

{
  "binary": {
    "bytes": [202, 254, 186, 190],
    "subtype": 42
  }
}

CBOR

CBOR supports binary values, but no subtypes. Any binary value will be serialized as byte strings. The library will choose the smallest representation using the length of the byte array.

Example

Code:

// create a binary value of subtype 42 (will be ignored by CBOR)
json j;
j["binary"] = json::binary({0xCA, 0xFE, 0xBA, 0xBE}, 42);

// convert to CBOR
auto v = json::to_cbor(j);      

v is a std::vector<std::uint8t> with the following 13 elements:

0xA1                                   // map(1)
    0x66                               // text(6)
        0x62 0x69 0x6E 0x61 0x72 0x79  // "binary"
    0x44                               // bytes(4)
        0xCA 0xFE 0xBA 0xBE            // content

Note the subtype (42) is not serialized, and deserializing v would yield the following value:

{
  "binary": {
    "bytes": [202, 254, 186, 190],
    "subtype": null
  }
}

MessagePack

MessagePack supports binary values and subtypes. If a subtype is given, the ext family is used. The library will choose the smallest representation among fixext1, fixext2, fixext4, fixext8, ext8, ext16, and ext32. The subtype is then added as singed 8-bit integer.

If no subtype is given, the bin family (bin8, bin16, bin32) is used.

Example

Code:

// create a binary value of subtype 42
json j;
j["binary"] = json::binary({0xCA, 0xFE, 0xBA, 0xBE}, 42);

// convert to MessagePack
auto v = json::to_msgpack(j);      

v is a std::vector<std::uint8t> with the following 14 elements:

0x81                                   // fixmap1
    0xA6                               // fixstr6
        0x62 0x69 0x6E 0x61 0x72 0x79  // "binary"
    0xD6                               // fixext4
        0x2A                           // subtype
        0xCA 0xFE 0xBA 0xBE            // content

Note that the serialization preserves the subtype, and deserializing v would yield the following value:

{
  "binary": {
    "bytes": [202, 254, 186, 190],
    "subtype": 42
  }
}

UBJSON

UBJSON neither supports binary values nor subtypes, and proposes to serialize binary values as array of uint8 values. This translation is implemented by the library.

Example

Code:

// create a binary value of subtype 42 (will be ignored in UBJSON)
json j;
j["binary"] = json::binary({0xCA, 0xFE, 0xBA, 0xBE}, 42);

// convert to UBJSON
auto v = json::to_msgpack(j);      

v is a std::vector<std::uint8t> with the following 20 elements:

0x7B                                             // '{'
    0x69 0x06                                    // i 6 (length of the key)
    0x62 0x69 0x6E 0x61 0x72 0x79                // "binary"
    0x5B                                         // '['
        0x55 0xCA 0x55 0xFE 0x55 0xBA 0x55 0xBE  // content (each byte prefixed with 'U')
    0x5D                                         // ']'
0x7D                                             // '}'

The following code uses the type and size optimization for UBJSON:

// convert to UBJSON using the size and type optimization
auto v = json::to_ubjson(j, true, true);

The resulting vector has 23 elements; the optimization is not effective for examples with few values:

0x7B                                // '{'
    0x24                            // '$' type of the object elements
    0x5B                            // '[' array
    0x23 0x69 0x01                  // '#' i 1 number of object elements
    0x69 0x06                       // i 6 (length of the key)
    0x62 0x69 0x6E 0x61 0x72 0x79   // "binary"
        0x24 0x55                   // '$' 'U' type of the array elements: unsinged integers
        0x23 0x69 0x04              // '#' i 4 number of array elements
        0xCA 0xFE 0xBA 0xBE         // content

Note that subtype (42) is not serialized and that UBJSON has no binary type, and deserializing v would yield the following value:

{
  "binary": [202, 254, 186, 190]
}