ECMAScript proposal: source text access for JSON.parse() and JSON.stringify()

[2022-11-18] dev, javascript, es proposal
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In this blog post, we look at the ECMAScript proposal “JSON.parse source text access” by Richard Gibson and Mathias Bynens.

It gives access to source text to two kinds of callbacks:

  • Revivers, callbacks that are passed to JSON.parse() and post-process the data it parses.
  • Replacers, callbacks that are passed to JSON.stringify() and pre-process data before it is stringified.

We’ll examine how exactly that works and what you can do with this feature.

JSON parsing: reading the source text from a reviver  

JSON.parse() can be customized via a reviver, a callback that post-processes the data that is parsed:

  text: string,
  reviver?: (key: string, value: any, context: RContext) => any
): any;

type RContext = {
  /** Only provided if a value is primitive */
  source?: string,

The proposal gives revivers access to the source text via the new parameter context.

Example: faithfully parsing large integers  

JSON does not support bigints. But its syntax can represent arbitrarily large integers. The following interaction shows a large integer that can be stored as JSON, but when it is parsed as a number value, we lose precision and don’t get an accurate value:

> JSON.parse('1234567890123456789')

If we could parse that string as a bigint, we would not lose precision:

> BigInt('1234567890123456789')

We can achieve that by accessing the source text from a reviver:

function bigintReviver(key, val, {source}) {
  if (key.endsWith('_bi')) {
    return BigInt(source);
  return val;

The reviver assumes that properties whose names end with '_bi' contain bigints. Let’s use it to parse an object with a bigint property:

  JSON.parse('{"prop_bi": 1234567890123456789}', bigintReviver),
  { prop_bi: 1234567890123456789n }

JSON stringification: specifying the source text via replacers and JSON.rawJSON()  

JSON.stringify() can be customized via a replacer, a callback that pre-processes data before it is stringified.

  value: any,
  replacer?: (key: string, value: any) => any,
  space?: string | number
): string;

Replacers can use JSON.rawJSON() to specify how a value should be stringified:

JSON.rawJSON: (jsonStr: string) => RawJSON;
type RawJSON = {
  rawJSON: string,


  • JSON.rawJSON() coerces jsonStr to a string.
  • If jsonStr has leading or trailing whitespace, it throws an exception.
  • The function also enforces that jsonStr, when JSON-parsed, is a primitive value.

Example: stringifying bigints  

The following replacer stringifies bigints (for which JSON.stringify() normally throws exceptions) as integer numbers:

function bigintReplacer(_key, val) {
  if (typeof val === 'bigint') {
    return JSON.rawJSON(String(val)); // (A)
  return val;

The manual type conversion via String() in line A is not strictly needed, but I like to be explicit about conversions.

We can use bigintReplacer to convert the object we have previously parsed back to JSON:

  JSON.stringify({prop_bi: 10765432100123456789n}, bigintReplacer),

A generic approach for stringifying and parsing numeric values  

When stringifying, we can distinguish integer numbers and bigints by marking the former with a decimal point and decimal fraction of zero. That is:

  • The integer number 123 is stringified as '123.0'.
  • The bigint 123n is stringified as '123'.
const re_int = /^[0-9]+$/;

function numericReplacer(_key, val) {
  if (Number.isInteger(val)) {
    const str = String(val);
    if (re_int.test(str)) {
      // `str` has neither a decimal point nor an exponent:
      // Mark as number so that we can distinguish it from bigints
      return JSON.rawJSON(str + '.0');
  } else if (typeof val === 'bigint') {
    return JSON.rawJSON(String(val));
  return val;

  JSON.stringify(123, numericReplacer),
  JSON.stringify(123n, numericReplacer),

When parsing, integer literals are always parsed as bigints, all other number literals as numbers:

function numericReviver(key, val, {source}) {
  if (typeof val === 'number' && re_int.test(source)) {
    return BigInt(source);
  return val;

  JSON.parse('123.0', numericReviver),
  JSON.parse('123', numericReviver),

Real-world example: Twitter’s ID problem  

When Twitter switched to 64-bit IDs, these IDs couldn’t be (only) stored as numbers in JSON anymore. Quoting Twitter’s documentation:

Numbers as large as 64-bits can cause issues with programming languages that represent integers with fewer than 64-bits. An example of this is JavaScript, where integers are limited to 53-bits in size. In order to provide a workaround for this, in the original designs of the Twitter API (v1, v1.1), ID values were returned in two formats: both as integers, and as strings.

  "id": 10765432100123456789,
  "id_str": "10765432100123456789"

Let’s see what happens if we parse this integer as a number and as a bigint:

> Number('10765432100123456789')
> BigInt('10765432100123456789')

Implementations of the proposal  

There is a GitHub issue that lists the bug tickets for implementing this feature in various JavaScript engines.

V8 has an implementation behind the --harmony-json-parse-with-source flag (V8 v10.9.1+).

Further reading