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Last active Apr 16, 2020
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JSON digests

Digesting JSON data

This is a description of how we can compute a Digest of the subset of JSON data that we care about.

The JSON subset puts the following restrictions on JSON values:

  • the names of object properties must be printable ASCII characters (i.e., UTF-8 code points 0x20 ' ' through 0x7e '~')
  • JSON numbers must be representable as 32 bit signed integers

We assume an accumulating digester, as the ones provided by the digest crate in Rust. These digesters expect their input as a byte array. For each JSON construct, we therefore need to explain how that is converted into a byte array.

To finalize the specification, we need to settle on a specific digest algorithm, e.g., SHA256 or SHA512

Primitive JSON types are converted into a byte array in the following way:

  • string: the byte sequence of the UTF-8 encoding of the string, enclosed in ". The characters " and \\ are escaped by prefixing them with a \\
  • number: i followed by the byte sequence of the little-endian signed 64bit representation of the number
  • bool: f for false and t for true
  • null: n

JSON arrays are converted into a byte sequence by starting with a [, followed by the byte sequences for each array entry seperated by ,, and closed with a ]

JSON objects/maps are converted into a byte sequence by starting with a {, then for each key/value pair in the map in ascending order by key, appending the byte array for the key, a :, and the byte array for the value; the digests for key/value pairs are separated by , and the digest of the entire map is finished with a }

As an example, the JSON object

  "id": "thing",
  "count": 12,
  "children": ["c1", "c2", "c3"]

would get digested as the bytes corresponding to the ASCII values in the following string (using \xnm as the hexadecimal notation of a single byte)


The Augeas lens proves that there are no two JSON values that map to the same byte sequence up to 7 levels of nesting of arrays and maps.

JSON Representation of Graph-specific Values

The GraphQL type system for the Graph uses a few types that can not be represented as JSON, and are instead represented as strings. The conversion of these values to JSON strings is as follows:

  • Bytes: 0x followed by the hexadecimal notation of the bytes in the value, using only the lowercase hex characters a-f
  • BigInt: representation as a base-10 integer without leading zeroes
  • BigDecimal: represented as the integer part plus a . plus the fractional part in base 10. If there is no integral part, use 0. If there is no fractional part, omit the ..

TODO: Define the representation of BigInt and BigDecimal in exponential notation to avoid huge strings of 0 in them (mostly following what we do today)

Transmitting of digest

When we transmit a digest, we do it in the form scheme:digest:value where the scheme describes how we arrived at the representation of the data (let's call the description in this document graph-1), the digest describes how a digest was computed from the byte representation, e.g. sha256, and value is the actual digest value, e.g. 2b1e2b...0bfd so that the complete digest value would be graph-1:sha256:2b1e2b...0bfd

Including the encoding scheme and the digest algorithm makes it possible to update our JSON digest algorithm in the network by introducing new schemes.

Open Questions

  • Can we base string encoding on UTF-8? This draft spec seems to imply that that is not good for JavaScript clients, and we might have to use UTF-16 instead
module Digest =
(* Any byte *)
let any = /.|\n/
(* A string is any byte, enclosed in double quotes, except that the
double quote and backslash characters need to be escaped with
a backslash *)
let str =
let str_char = /[^"\]|\\\\["\]/ in
"\"" . str_char* . "\""
let _ = print_regexp str; print_endline ""
let number = "i" . any . any . any . any . any . any . any . any
let bool = /[tf]/
let null = "n"
(* Helper to handle our individual marker characters *)
let char(s:string) = del s s
let lbrack = char "["
let rbrack = char "]"
let lbrace = char "{"
let rbrace = char "}"
let comma = char ","
let colon = char ":"
(* The encodings of a scalar JSON value *)
let scalar = [ label "str" . store str ]
| [ label "number" . store number ]
| [ label "bool" . store bool ]
| [ label "null" . store null ]
(* An array of values where val expresses what the values are *)
let array (val: lens) =
[ label "array"
. lbrack
. (val . (comma . val)* )?
. rbrack ]
(* A map/object of values *)
let map (val: lens) =
(* We require the same escaping for the characters in the key
as we do with general strings *)
let key_char = (/[ -~]/ - /["\]/) | /\\\\["\]/ in
let key = store (/"/ . key_char+ ./"/) in
(* A key/value pair in a map *)
let kv = [ label "kv" . (key . colon . val) ] in
[ label "map" .
lbrace . kv . (comma . kv) * . rbrace ]
(* Helper to deal with JSON values with increasing depth of nesting *)
let json(v:lens) = scalar | (array v) | (map v)
(* json1 accepts all encodings where we only allow scalars, and maps and
objects of scalars, json2 adds one more level of nesting etc. *)
let json1 = json scalar
let json2 = json json1
let json3 = json json2
let json4 = json json3
let _ = print_endline "json4 checked"
let json5 = json json4
let json6 = json json5
let json7 = json json6
(* Sanity check that we really do handle nesting *)
test json3 get "[t,[t],[[t]]]" =
{ "array"
{ "bool" = "t" }
{ "array"
{ "bool" = "t" } }
{ "array"
{ "array"
{ "bool" = "t" } } } }
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