Bob Ippolito (@etrepum) on Haskell, Python, Erlang, JavaScript, etc.
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simplejson now for Python 3.3 (and Python 2.5+!)

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simplejson (documentation) is a simple, fast, complete, correct and extensible JSON (RFC 4627) encoder/decoder for Python 2.5+ and Python 3.3+. It is pure Python code with no dependencies, but features an optional C extension for speed-ups.

simplejson 3 came out just a few weeks ago. Hard to believe that I released the first version in December 2005, over 7 years ago! Python sure has changed a lot since then, Python 2.4 was current at the time.

I put a bit more work than usual into this release since there finally seems to be some real demand for a Python 3.3 port. In the process I did a little clean-up of the C code and beefed up the test coverage. There was a pull request to take care of Python 3 compatibility a few years ago (#8), but I was hesitant to accept it because it seemed like it might make some unwanted behavior changes to Python 2.x support and add to the maintenance burden. I didn’t end up using this patch, but it served as a wonderful reference.

A number of things have changed since then that made me change my mind about supporting Python 3. Basically, Python 3.3 is much more memory efficient for text processing, and it’s easier than ever to write code that works in both Python 2.x and Python 3.x without any preprocessor (see also: What’s New In Python 3.3):

  • PEP 393: Flexible String Representation really changes the game for string processing in Python. In Python 2.x I put a lot of effort into making it possible to use the str (bytes) type whenever possible to conserve memory. Python 3.3’s str (text) type can use 8-bit, 16-bit, or 32-bit per code point storage based on the contents of the string.

  • Python 3.3 supports u'' string syntax, so fewer changes are necessary to support both Python 2.x and 3.3

  • Travis-CI made it easy (and free!) for me to run the simplejson tests against multiple Python versions after every commit, even on a branch. Currently, it tests simplejson on CPython 2.5, 2.6, 2.7, 3.3, and PyPy.

  • python3porting.com had basically everything I needed to know about porting between Python 2 and Python 3. The strategy I used for porting is covered in Supporting Python 2 and 3 without 2to3 conversion. I decided to implement a small compatibility library myself instead of using six only because I did not want to add dependencies to the project. If simplejson already had dependencies, I’d have taken that route.

If anyone is interested in helping out, simplejson could always use some better benchmarks and performance improvements. It could also use some better PyPy-specific optimizations. I’d be happy to review any pull requests. Another project that I’d recommend would be to backport simplejson 3 to Python 3’s json library for Python 3.4. I’m not really using Python much these days, but I’m happy to help provide code review or general advice for anyone who is interested.

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