The basic concepts needed before diving into the world of JSON Schema

Here we present a brief description of some concepts that will make the reading of the specification easier. The first section explains what a JSON document is, which is essential for understanding the definition of JSON Schemas and how they work. The second section contains a simple explanation of what a JSON Schema is together with a small example. Finally, in the third section we present some notation that is used throughout the specification to avoid ambiguities.


JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) is a file format commonly used for sharing information over the Web. JSON files are lightweight and easy to ready both by machines and developers. This has made JSON the most popular file format for client-server communication. A JSON instance is one of the next seven elements:


     "id": 1,
     "name": "Milk",
     "stock": 25     

Basic JSON constructs described above can be combined to create more complex documents. To illustrate this consider a situation where we want to store information about multiple products. In order to do so we could use an array of objects of the form above. As an example consider the following JSON document.


    {"id": 1,
     "name": "Milk",
     "stock": 25},
    {"id": 2,
     "name": "Yogurt",
     "stock": 15,
     "link": ""}

Here our JSON document is an array that consists of two objects, the first one storing information about Milk and the second one about Yogurt.

JSON Schema

A JSON Schema is a file that specifies the structure of JSON documents that are used in a certain application. For example, owners of a store might want to share documents with the information about products. Here, a JSON Schema could specify that each such document is a list of products, and that each product contains an id, a name, a stock and optionally a link to the manufacturer's website. Since it is very simple to verify if a JSON document satisfies a schema, using a schema would be useful to ensure that all shared documents have this structure. The next JSON Schema specifies the structure of an array products.json defined above:


    "type": "array",
    "items": {
        "type": "object",
        "properties": {
            "id": {"type": "integer"},
            "name": {"type": "string"},
            "stock": {"type": "integer"},
            "link": {"type": "string"},
        "required": ["id", "name", "stock"],
        "additionalProperties": false

First, "type": "array" indicates that the document must be an array. Then, "items": {...} tells us that each of the array's items must satisfy what's specified in the braces (which is also a schema). Hence, "type": "object" indicates that each item of the array must be an object, and "properties": {...} indicates what should be satisfied (also a schema) by the properties of each product. Finally, "required": ["id", "name", "stock"] specifies that each product must have an id, a name and a stock, and "additionalProperties": false says that a product cannot have properties that are not mentioned in "properties": {...} (and hence the only optional property is link).

Note that the file products.json is correct according to what is specified in product_list_schema.json.


JSON Document: A document containing a JSON instance in its content.

JSON Schema Document: A document containing a JSON Schema instance in addition to a set of JSON Schema instance definitions in its content.

JSON Schema: A JSON Schema instance. Note that these kind of instances do not include definitions on their structure.

definitions : A set of auxiliary schemas whose purpouse is to be reused and combined later on the schema or in other definitions. You can take a look at the precise formalization here.

key-value pair: A key-value pair represents an assigment from a particular keyword to a JSON instance.

restriction: A single condition that a JSON instance must satisfy. A JSON Schema can be seen as a set of restrictions.

We use a simple, visual-based Extended Backus-Naur Form (EBNF) notation to specify how documents are written. You can look at the Precise Definition.

Where to go from here

You can visit our User Guide for a quick reference on how to create JSON Schemas. If you want to understand in detail how a keyword is validated, please go to the corresponding section of the specification. The specification is intended to be exhaustive and should contain the information needed to write your own JSON Schema validator (if this is not the case please open an issue).