Using JSON on servers without native support

If you’re building a distributed application one of the luxuries you lack is knowing exactly how the server that will be hosting your application is configured. One common obstacle I encounter is lack of JSON support (JSON is only natively available to PHP since version 5 version 5.2, and even then is not uniformly available on servers). Here’s how I code around this situation; firstly, if the server does support JSON, then I don’t want to mess with it, but if it lacks support for JSON, then we need to define the JSON functions so it can use them externally. There are 2 JSON functions that we want to re-create - json_decode(), and json_encode().

Often times these types of things are set using configuration variables (in CodeIgniter, the $config array), but a configuration variable in this case is not really desirable, as a server may get the ability afterwards, or the person implementing it may not set the variable correctly. What I do in order to ensure the system will guess correctly is simply use PHP’s native function_exists() function to determine if the server can handle JSON. If it cannot, then I re-implement all the functions using the PEAR Json_services file, which I implement as a CodeIgniter library.

// Not all servers will have json_decode() available but those that do should
// use it, and we'll fall back to another solution for those who don't. 
if ( ! function_exists('json_decode'))

The library is available from the Pear repository and will work in any environment that CodeIgniter itself works in, simply drop it into your libraries folder.

function codeigniter_controller ()
if ( ! function_exists('json_decode'))




I’ve used this technique successfully now across several CodeIgniter projects.

This entry was made on and filed into CodeIgniter, PHP.


Brandon Kelly wrote on

I ran into this with FF Matrix and Playa. Turned out the JSON function didn’t get added to PHP until v5.2, rather that 5.0.

I’m using the jsonwrapper script to get around it, which also works great.

Pozycjonowanie wrote on

I heard that data accessing witch JSON is easier and quicker from JavaScript level than with use of xml, but I haven’t noticed any such thing. But I’m not the best at using advanced programming languages.

BorisK wrote on

JSON is da thing.

One obstacle I had was dealing with multiple languages in JSON responses. I’ve started with a format similar to the one at

$array = array(
'status' => 'OK',
'message' => 'My status message',
'additional' => array()

The trouble comes when you want to check the error message in your jQuery code as the message changes depending on the language used. Also, if you change a wording of the message your jQuery code would not work. This is my implementation:

$array = array(
‘status’ => false
'message' => 'invalid_password',
'additional' => array("translation" => "You have specified an invalid password")

My jQuery now checks if msg.message = ‘invalid_password’ regardless of the translation provided.

Stephen Crosby wrote on

This is the approach taken by Zend_Json (part of the Zend framework) when you call static functions Zend_Json::encode() or Zend_Json::decode(), which includes its own json library in case php json functions aren’t available.

Emanuel wrote on

Thank you very much! I was looking for this of 2 days!