Oboe.js aims to be fluid like a SAX parser but with the convenience of a DOM parser.

Choosing a parser

DOM pros:

  • It is very simple. Everybody knows how to use it.
  • The parsing is fast and native using JSON.parse

DOM cons:

  • You can’t do anything until you have the whole document.
  • If the connection drops while transferring you lose everything.
  • Perpetual documents are not possible.

SAX pros:

  • It has lean memory requirements. It can handle documents larger than the available RAM.

SAX cons:

  • The API is very low level. Simple tasks need quite a lot of programming.

Oboe.js pros:

  • Finding nodes is pattern-based. Unlike SAX, you don’t have to maintain state on what you have already seen in order to drill down into a JSON document.
  • Oboe’s parser provides actual JS objects which can then be used much as you would with a DOM parser. In comparison, with SAX you must programmatically infer objects from many callbacks.
  • Can be used to search the JSON while streaming is flowing.

Oboe.js cons:

  • Since it builds up the parsed result as actual JSON objects parsing a document takes about the same memory as a DOM parser.

Code comparison: SAX

We have JSON containing an array of people objects and we wish to extract the name of the first person. Using SAX this is quite involved:

function extractNameOfFirstPerson(){

   var parser = clarinet.parser(),

       // With a SAX parser it is the developer's responsibility 
       // to track where in the document the cursor currently is.
       // Several variables are required to maintain this state.        
       inPeopleArray = false,   
       inPersonObject = false,
       inNameAttribute = false,
       found = false;

   parser.onopenarray = function(){
      // For brevity we'll cheat by assuming there is only one
      // array in the document. In practice this would be overly
      // brittle.      
      inPeopleArray = true; 

   parser.onclosearray = function(){
      inPeopleArray = false;

   parser.onopenobject = function(){
      inPersonObject = inPeopleArray; 

   parser.oncloseobject = function(){
      inPersonObject = false;

   parser.onkey = function(key){
      inNameAttribute = (inPeopleObject && key == 'name');

   parser.onvalue = function(value){
      if( !found && inNameAttribute ) {
         // finally!
         console.log('the name is', value); 
         found = true;

   // return the parser to be hooked up to a stream
   return parser;   

Code comparison: Oboe.js

Oboe makes extracting the name very much easier, but reacts equally quickly to the streamed input as the SAX example above:

   .node('[0].name', function(name){
      console.log('the name is', name);

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