Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Parsing Imperfect JSON

In JavaScript, each JSON attribute name should be wrapped in quotes for it to be parsed correctly. Sometimes you may receive a JSON string that isn't properly formed because of the missing quotes. You can still parse it using the technique described below.

To start, here's an example of malformed JSON using JSON.parse and jQuery's $.parseJSON. You'll notice that it doesn't parse the JSON string since it doesn't have its names wrapped with quotes.
//Using native JS: JSON.parse
//Similar result for jQuery $.parseJSON
var jsonStr = '{ename : "martin", sal: 100}';
var jsonObj = JSON.parse(jsonStr);

//Raises error: 
SyntaxError: JSON.parse: expected property name or '}'

//Correct JSON object (notice attribute names are quoted)
var jsonStr = '{"ename" : "martin", "sal": 100}';
var jsonObj = JSON.parse(jsonStr);
console.log (jsonObj);

//Returns JSON object
Object { ename="martin", sal=100}
To get around this issue you can use JavaSript's eval method. It's not pretty but it does the job and will probably save you a lot of time trying to correct your JSON object.
var jsonStr = '{ename : "martin", sal: 100}';
eval('jsonObj = ' + jsonStr + ';'); 

//Returns JSON object
Object { ename="martin", sal=100}
I've found this technique really helpful when passing back JSON strings from APEX AJAX calls (via a Dynamic Action, Plugin, or custom AJAX).

Update: Please read John's comment below as he makes a good point that the data should be data that you control otherwise perfect area for a JS injection attack.


  1. Martin,

    Nice post...but it's worth pointing out that using eval on JSON that you don't control could potentially lead to injection attacks (i.e. only use it if you're sure the JSON can't contain any 'nasties').


    1. Thanks for pointing that out. I've updated the article to reflect it.