Wednesday, November 22, 2006

JSON Parser Using Python

JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) is a lightweight data-interchange format. It is easy for humans to read and write. It is easy for machines to parse and generate. More information about JSON can be found at Yahoo's Douglas Crockford developed this format and within a short period, many web based services have adopted JSON as the primary data interchange format. In this log, we will look at one such service.


There are a bunch of JSON parsers out there, such as:

An example JSON document appears as follows:

  "Image": {
  "Width": 800,
  "Height": 600,
  "Title": "View from 15th Floor",
  "Thumbnail": {
    "Url": "",
    "Height": 125,
    "Width": "100"
  "IDs": [116, 943, 234, 38793]

For a Python developer, a JSON document is nothing but a dictionary with each element being either an element, array or another dictionary. We can use this fact to our advantage, by simply using the eval() function provided by Python to not only parse this document, but to create a data structure in one statement!

The following code snippet shows how to use the eval() function to parse JSON object. This snippet is based on

# If needed set the proxy address
import os
os.environ['http_proxy'] = 'http://[proxy_host]:[proxy_port]/'
import urllib
APP_ID = 'YahooDemo' # Change this to your API key

class YahooSearchError(Exception):

def search(query, results=20, start=1, **kwargs):
        'appid': APP_ID,
        'query': query,
        'results': results,
        'start': start,
        'output': 'json'
    url = SEARCH_BASE + '?' + urllib.urlencode(kwargs)
    f = urllib.urlopen(url)
    buff ='\\/', '/')
    result = eval(buff)
    if 'Error' in result:
        # An error occurred; raise an exception
        raise YahooSearchError, result['Error']
    return result['ResultSet']

info = search('json python')
results = info['Result']
for result in results:
    print result['Title'], result['Url']


The eval() function is not safe from programmer errors. Putting a try...catch around the function call fixes that problem. But there is another sinister problem with eval(), not unlike SQL. The eval() function will not distinguish between a JSON object and a malicious statement. Consider the following:

import os

Care should be taken to use eval when the string to be evaluated is from a trusted source. I consider Yahoo! or Google servers trusted.


This article briefly touches upon using the eval() function to understand JSON documents. This will be further elaborated when we will look at Google Local client-server interactions later. I hope you find this trick useful...


Blogger cyke64 said...

hello ,

How have you succeed in running the simplejson package on pys60 ???
There seems to have a problem with it

7:57 AM  
Blogger Nikhil Vajramushti said...

I have never tried simplejson on PyS60. However, eval() works right out of the box on PyS60! I should mention that in the log :)

6:59 AM  
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2:48 PM  

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