API Security

What is JSON RPC?

What is JSON RPC?

Just like everything else, the world of API protocols is evolving. Typical SOAP and REST APIs have many companies like GraphQL, gRPC, and Thrift. JSON-RPC is also on the list. Created to develop feature-rich and quick websites, it is developers’ best buddy.

Let us see what it is and how it benefits app and API development experts. But before one tries to gain acquaintances with JSON-RPC, understanding JSON is essential. So, we will begin with its introduction.

Learning Objectives

An Overview to JSON: What is it and How it works?

JSON is a light-weight messaging format, suitable for transferring data faster. That is the reason why it is widely used in today’s circumstances.

JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) recurringly breaks data till the time it becomes easy to process. As it is fundamentally JavaScript-based, you will be able to find a lot of strings, null characters, objects, and Boolean variables while trying to understand its data elements.  

By breaking the intricately mapped data into a manageable structure, it makes the data easily processable for multiple programming languages. For this reason, JSON is a language-independent resource. Originated in 2000 by Douglas Crockford, it encourages web applications and server communication.


What is JSON RPC?

Simply put, JSON-RPC is a succession of JSON and a globally identified protocol for remote procedure calling. Working at development level, JSON-RPC brings into action an assorted data structure defining task for applications. It’s a comparably new protocol and has a narrow scope. 

The command sets, flexibility, and deployment scenarios; all are restrained. However, for developers, it’s the ideal pick when uncomplicated and quick development is wanted. These limitations act as a boon in simple use cases and compel developers to replace REST with JSON-RPC. Besides all this:

  • It defines the data processing related constraints over a network. 
  • Its light construction and quick processing are the features that make it suitable to initiate data transfer with Ethereum nodes. 
  • As this protocol is transport-agnostic protocol, it can utilize sockets as well as HTTP for interacting.
  • It’s a really good choice for developing Ethereum-based solutions that utilize Blockchain. 

Presently, two specifications of JSON-RPC are offered, JSON-RPC 1.0 a JSON-RPC- 2.0:

  • JSON-RPC 1.0 lacked utility at multiple fronts. Especially the absence of names parameters and error-message explanations caused troubles more than one’s expectations. It was more of a peer-to-peer communication method.
  • The updated specification, JSON RPC 2.0, was highly advanced and solved the lacunas of the previous version. v1.0 was replaced by client-server in version 2.0. The transport means dependency was achieved in version 2.0. 

Of course, named parameters were added. Fields were trimmed. There is no ID for notifications, only result/error is sent as response. The updated version includes additional extensions along with error details. 

JSON works

How to use JSON RPC?

The essential workability of this protocol involves dispatching client requests to the server (backed by JSON-RPC). Here, by client, we mean with the convention software deployed to receive the request for a consolidated method from a distant system.  

The entered parameters are concocted to the distant system in an array or object format. Based upon the JSON-RPC version used, the remote system will send various data outputs back to the source of request.

All the JSON-RPC powered web transfers are unified and serialized with the help of JSON only. The request of JSON-RPC denotes to the call made to the remote method and is made of 3 elements:

  1. Method: It refers to the stringthat will be petitioned while calling a method. There is a set of reserved names with prefix ‘rpc’, meant for internal RPC calls. One cannot use these method names causally.
  2. Params: The second element of the JSON-RPC that could be an Object or an Array, featuring value of the parameter to be carried forward. params are not invoked in every call. 
  3. ID: The non-fraction or string number regularly deployed to maintain the balance between response and requests. In the absence of a response towards a request, the ID will be removed automatically.  

In a JSON-RPC request, reciever is bound to revert to the verified response for every obtained request, further featuring 3 components:

  1. Result is the first and foremost part of response that carries the data returned by invoked method. It is often called JSON-stat and will remain absent if an error occurs.
  2. Error, the second member, will come into being if a problem occurs while invoking the process. Code and message are the essential parts of this member.
  3. A response ID refers to the request against which a response is taking place. For situations demanding no responses, JSON-RPC makes use of notifications that is a version of a request having no ID. In v1, notification ID is forwarded as null while in the case of version 2.0 it’s completely omitted.


Benefits of JSON-RPC

JSON-RPC is an inventive protocol and endows its clients with multiple benefits such as:

Simple handling

As compared to REST, JSON-RPC is very simple. It’s easy to understand for both humans and machines. There are no such commands and data sets to confuse. This makes it an exemplary choice for a rookie developer. It’s a Unicode protocol and has a compact common line. Also, it can process data featuring named phrases or specific keywords. All these traits make it a clean and simple choice.

Quick development time

With JSON-RPC, not much brainstorming is required. The resources are presented in a very easy fashion. Such un-hassled resource availability reduces the application development time and reduces the time-to-market factor. So, it’s the most preferred resource when one needs to develop applications in a time crunch.

Better information exchange

JSON-RPC warrants for timely, quick, and sure information exchange as it can handle notification and multiple calls. It won’t wait for responses from anyone, from server or client, to proceed further. If a message request is made then it will take it to its destination for sure. No matter how tedious software components are part of the communication, JSON-RPC ensures proper information exchange.

Enhanced API performance

With JSON-RPC, APIs that are not dependent on the protocol deployed can be created. Such action has an added benefit to perk-up the API performance as one replaces HTTP with TCP and trims down the overheads.

Explained results

JSON-RPC provides self-explanatory request results that are understandable and easy to process. making batch requests, explaining HTTP body, and carrying forward the parameters are the other jobs that are way more simple with JSON-RPC.

Improved transmission

JSON-RPC is a very transmission-friendly tool as it supports platforms like XMPP, WebSockets, SFTP, SSH, and SCP. This separation promotes the development of quick, user-friendly, and easy-to-debug APIs. Also, this protocol keeps the requested content entirely aloof from the transmission process used. Because of this, any request errors, data, and warnings will be offered via request payload.


What to choose for API development - REST or JSON-RPC? 

The abundance of API resources is a good thing in various aspects but confuses developers as they face the tough to pick one. Up next, we are trying to assist the developers at this front by explaining the key utilities of these two protocols. 

JSON-RPC should be picked for the development process when developers are beginners and need to bring only limited resources. JSON-RPC is a very resource-limited protocol and yet suffice its purpose diligently. Also, if the development goal has anything to do with distributed ledger technology then JSON-RPC is the only viable choice over REST and any other web transfer protocol. No other protocol can handle this kind of deployment the way JSON-RPC does.

Application developments demanding distributed ledger systems need protocol-agnostic API and JSON-RPC makes this happen. It allows developers to develop APIs that can interact with others with the help of any protocol.  

There is one area where JSON-RPC presides over REST. REST has limited verbs that cause issues during operation execution. While REST is used, it’s mandatory to explain the detailed HTTP method, which is a time-consuming job. Also, only CRUD operations are possible with REST. JSON-RPC is a preferred choice.

But JSON-RPC is not always a beneficial deal as the coupling is a major issue with this protocol. Clients are bound to be tied up tightly with the service implementation that makes service implementation changes a tough task. If one tries to do so, clients are likely to be broken.

Things are simple with REST at various fronts. For instance, REST-based APIs are stateless and effortless to design. It’s an HTTP-compliant protocol offering a wide range of HTTP libraries. APIs are flexible with REST. It’s perfect for CRUD operations.

Both these protocols come with a fair share of pros and cons. Developers need to make a concise decision based upon the primary development goal. For instance, if the development needs high computing performance then JSON-RPC is the way out.  

If the application development needs to be agnostic and features an easy-to-interpret interface then REST is what you should prefer. Also, don't forget about the API security.


JSON-RPC vs graphql vs grpc

The two most famous counterparts of JSON-RPC are GraphQL and gRPC. GraphQL is an utterly adaptable system used for locating the request data accurately and ensuring that only needed requesting data is acquired. Its client-driven nature is a distinctive feature. The server has barely any role in web transfers. The only client set rules for requesting data to process.

Speaking of category, GraphQL falls under the Query Language section while JSON-RPC belongs to the Remote Procedure Call category.

On the other hand, gRPC is a performance-oriented and lightweight protocol and is an updated version of RPC. In JSON-RPC, the requesting data negotiation deals with servers and clients. Architecture has no role. But, in gRPC, requests are processed based upon a pre-crafted schema. It can run on any ecosystem.

JSON-RPC comes with MQTT, Python, and Kallithea integrations while resources like .NET, JavaScript, C++, Swift, and many more are related to gRPC.

The key similarities between all these resources are open-source and offered to the clients without much hassle.


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