Interfaces to serialize and deserialize PHP objects to/from JSON

v2.2.1 2023-10-03 20:45 UTC

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Last update: 2024-05-02 15:26:43 UTC


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Interfaces to serialize and deserialize PHP objects to/from JSON.

Additional documentation about this library can be found on


To make an object serializable/deserializable to/from JSON, the simplest way is to use the JsonCodecableTrait and implement two methods in your class, toJsonArray() and the static method newFromJsonArray():

use Wikimedia\JsonCodec\JsonCodecable;

class SampleObject implements JsonCodecable {
	use JsonCodecableTrait;

	/** @var string */
	public string $property;

	// ....

	// Implement JsonCodecable using the JsonCodecableTrait

	/** @inheritDoc */
	public function toJsonArray(): array {
		return [
			'property' => $this->property,

	/** @inheritDoc */
	public static function newFromJsonArray( array $json ): SampleObject {
		return new SampleObject( $json['property'] );

A slightly more complicated version of this example can be found in tests/SampleObject.php.

If your class requires explicit management -- for example, object instances need to be created using a factory service, you can implement JsonCodecable directly:

use Wikimedia\JsonCodec\JsonCodecable;

class ManagedObject implements JsonCodecable {
	public static function jsonClassCodec( ContainerInterface $serviceContainer ) {
		$factory = $serviceContainer->get( 'MyObjectFactory' );
		return new class( $factory ) implements JsonClassCodec {
			// ...
			public function toJsonArray( $obj ): array {
				// ...
			public function newFromJsonArray( string $className, array $json ): ManagedObject {
				return $this->factory->create( $json[....] );

A full example can be found in tests/ManagedObject.php.

Note that array returned by toJsonArray() can include other JsonCodecable objects, which will be recursively serialized. When newFromJsonArray is called during deserialization, all of these recursively included objects will already have been deserialized back into objects.

To serialize an object to JSON, use JsonCodec:

use Wikimedia\JsonCodec\JsonCodec;

$services = ... your global services object, or null ...;
$codec = new JsonCodec( $services );

$string_result = $codec->toJsonString( $someComplexValue );
$someComplexValue = $codec->newFromJsonString( $string_result );

In some cases you want to embed this output into another context, or to pretty-print the output using non-default json_encode options. In these cases it can be useful to have access to methods which return or accept the array form of the encoding, just before json encoding/decoding:

$array_result = $codec->toJsonArray( $someComplexValue );
var_export($array_result); // pretty-print
$request->jsonResponse( [ 'error': false, 'embedded': $array_result ] );

$someComplexValue = $codec->fromJsonArray( $data['embedded'] );

Handling "non-codecable" objects

In some cases you want to be able to serialize/deserialize third-party objects which don't implement JsonCodecable. This can be done using the JsonCodec method ::addCodecFor() which allows the creator of the JsonCodec instance to specify a JsonClassCodec to use for an arbitrary class name. For example:

use Wikimedia\JsonCodec\JsonCodec;

$codec = new JsonCodec( ...optional services object... );
$codec->addCodecFor( \DocumentFragment::class, new MyDOMSerializer() );

$string_result = $codec->toJsonString( $someComplexValue );

This is done by default to provide a serializer for stdClass objects.

If adding class codecs one-by-one is not sufficient, for example if you wish to add support for all objects implementing some alternate serialization interface, you can subclass JsonCodec and override the protected JsonCodec::codecFor() method to return an appropriate codec. Your code should look like this:

class MyCustomJsonCodec extends JsonCodec {
   protected function codecFor( string $className ): ?JsonClassCodec {
      $codec = parent::codecFor( $className );
      if ($codec === null && is_a($className, MyOwnSerializationType::class, true)) {
         $codec = new MyCustomSerializer();
         // Cache this for future use
         $this->addCodecFor( $className, $codec );
      return $codec;

A full example can be found in tests/AlternateCodec.php.

More concise output

By default JsonCodec embeds the class name of the appropriate object type into the JSON output to enable reliable deserialization. In some applications, however, concise JSON output is desired. By providing an optional "class hint" to the top-level call to ::toJsonArray() and newFromJsonArray() and implementing the ::jsonClassHintFor() method in your class codec you can suppress unnecessary type information in the JSON (when your provided hint matches what would have been added). For example:

class SampleContainerObject implements JsonCodecable {
	use JsonCodecableTrait;

	/** @var mixed */
	public $contents;

    // ...

	// Implement JsonCodecable using the JsonCodecableTrait

	/** @inheritDoc */
	public function toJsonArray(): array {
		return [ 'contents' => $this->contents ];

	/** @inheritDoc */
	public static function newFromJsonArray( array $json ): SampleContainerObject {
		return new SampleContainerObject( $json['contents'] );

	/** @inheritDoc */
	public static function jsonClassHintFor( string $keyName ): ?string {
		if ( $keyName === 'contents' ) {
			// Hint that the contained value is a SampleObject. It might be!
			return SampleObject::class;
		return null;

You can then generate concise output by providing the proper hints when serializing and deserializing:

use Wikimedia\JsonCodec\JsonCodec;

$codec = new JsonCodec();

$value = new SampleContainerObject( new SampleObject( 'sample' ) );
$string_result = $codec->toJsonString( $value, SampleContainerObject::class );

// $string_result is now:
//    {"contents":{"property":"sample"}}'
// with no explicit type information.

// But we need to provide the same class hint when deserializing:
$value = $codec->newFromJsonString( $string_result, SampleContainerObject::class );

Note that the provided value is a hint. If we were to put a value other than a SampleObject into the SampleContainerObject the type of that value would be embedded into the JSON output, but it would not break serialization/deserialization.

The class hint you provide can be suffixed with [] to indicate a homogenous list or array of the given type.

A full example can be found in tests/SampleContainerObject.php.

In some cases, ::jsonClassHintFor() may be inadequate to describe the implicit typing of the JSON; for example tagged union values or implicitly-typed objects nested deeply or inside non-homogeneous arrays. For those use cases a JsonCodecInterface parameter is provided to the ::jsonClassCodec() method. This allows the serialization/deserialization code to manually encode/decode portions of its JSON array using an implicit type. More details can be found in the interface documentation for src/JsonCodecInterface.php and a full example can be found in tests/TaggedValue.php.

Further customization of the encoding of class names and class hints is available using the protected methods JsonCodec::isArrayMarked(), JsonCodec::markArray() and JsonCodec::unmarkArray(). A full example can be found in tests/ReservedKeyCodec.php.

Running tests

composer install
composer test


The JsonCodec concept was first introduced in MediaWiki 1.36.0 (dbdc2a3cd33). It was split out of the MediaWiki codebase and published as an independent library during the MediaWiki 1.41 development cycle, with changes to the API.