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WebSSON Documentation

Documentation for the WebSSON language

WebSSON is a data format language. The goal is to have something that is human-readable with minimal redundancy.

Other important goals in developing the language are making sure everything is consistent, that there are no surprises, that it’s simple to write, and that it is efficient to parse and serialize.

I’m developing a parser and a serializer in C++. The source code is available here.

This page is intended as a quick tutorial. It is assumed that you’ll infer a personal understanding of the concepts. Further information about everything will be provided in other pages.

Basic structures


A dictionary contains key-value pairs. It is declared with braces.

	firstName: First
	lastName: Last


A list only contains values. It is declared with square brackets.


Keys and values


A key is a name. A name starts with a letter or any non-Ascii char. After the first letter, there can be digits. Hyphens and underscores can be put inside a name. They’re considered separators; they can only be inside the name and cannot be put consecutively. All names are case-sensitive.

Examples of valid names: a-name, a_name, aName, a01.


A value can be a name. It is then considered a keyword or an entity. Entities are names that someone made equivalent to a value.

An incomplete list of keywords include: null, false, true.

A value can also be a number. A number starts with a digit.

It can be a string. A string can be put within quotes, or can be declared using a colon, as seen above. The colon represents a line-string, a string that fits on a single line. Everything after the colon is considered part of the string.

It can also be a structure.

Associating a value to a key

In the example of the dictionary, there are keys associated to values. There, strings are associated to keys. The meaning of the colon is very different in WebSSON than in a lot of other languages. It really means to assign a line-string. Therefore, doing something like key: 123 would associate a string to the key, and not a number!

To associate a number, and anything else, to a key, the equal sign is used. For anything that is declared without using the start of a name or a number, the equal string can be omitted.

Here’s an example:

	firstName: First
	lastName: Last
	age = 38
		home: 890 456-7123
		work: 890 357-1246

Advanced structures


A tuple is like the mixture of a dictionary and a list. It maintains the order of values (like a list), and its values can be accessed by name (like a dictionary). It is declared using parentheses.

	name: First Last


A template is used in conjunction with tuples to avoid duplication of keys. It is declared using angle brackets.

For example, to make a list people’s names and age, a template could be used to avoid redundant keys:

<firstName, lastName, age>
	(:First, :Last, 38)
	(:Second, :Third, 47)

The example shows a list of tuples sharing the same keys, but with different values associated with them. We can also see the line-strings being terminated by a comma. This is not always the case. Their behavior depends on context.

More stuff

This page describes very succinctly a few of the language’s functionalities. More information will eventually be written….

Inspiration based on other formats

Formats like XML and JSON are considered to be human-readable, but to me they don’t seem as readable as a human-readable format should be. I looked at something like YAML, but I don’t like container limits based on tablature. Also, YAML doesn’t allow tabs (the character), which is just very bad…. About XML, it really annoys me to have to remember what tag was opened to then specify it when closing it. Using tablature or chars signalling the start and end is much better. JSON is good, but not good enough. You could consider WebSSON to be an improvement based on JSON. I’ve used CSV. You can easily get the equivalent of CSV with WebSSON.

WebSSON is not a superset of JSON, although you can achieve the same using very similar syntax. Especially, strings in WebSSON are not exactly like strings in JSON. I tried to make things similar, but only if it did not negatively affect the quality of the language.

By the way, WebSSON is an acronym for WebSS Object Notation. WebSS is another language I am developing. Its name is an acronym for Web Source-to-Source. I started developing WebSS before WebSSON, but have since spent much more effort on WebSSON.