Thursday Oct 10, 2013

JSON UDFs first feedback

Yesterday Ulf Wendel created great blog post with deep analysis of JSON UDF functions which I presented at MySQL Connect at September, 21.

Ulf found few bugs in these functions, I reported them all at You can find numbers in my comment to his blog post. But he also raised concerns, which can not be considered pure bugs, rather feature requests, or even design especiallities.

* First concern, of course, is the documentation. Ulf writes: "Here’s what the README, the only documentation available apart from the *.c[omment]/*.h[elp] files".

I agree single README file is not enough, but this is still Labs project for which I can not abuse MySQL documentation team for making proper documentation for me. But you still can find more information, than single README file. And these are slides from MySQL Connect, which are available on the conference website (they published them today!) at as well as on my own website at or I strongly recommend you to download these slides, because this is the best user manual for JSON functions which exists so far.

But I also want to hear your suggestions about where I can put the complete user manual. I was going to post updates to my blog and update README file. Is this sufficient? Or do you think would be better if I put the documentation at my own website? Or pack it as a separate *-doc package at Any other ideas? If you also miss the documentation, please comment.

* Another request which I have for you is about parameter syntax. Ulf writes: "A function that works “by key” on a subset of a JSON document, usually has the prototype: JSON_SOMETHING(string json_document, string key [, string key...], other_parameter). The first argument passed to the functions is always the JSON document to work on. It follows a variable number of arguments that describe on which subpart of the entire document the function shall work. Having this string key [, string key...] arguments in the middle of the function signature is a bit odd. Some programming languages may forbid this for style considerations. However, depending on the function, further arguments may follow, such as the value to search for or to add."

We discussed this syntax internally before I started implementing the functions and get to this style. But I understand what some people could prefer different syntax. If you such a person, please, file a feature request. At this stage it is easy to rewrite functions, so they support better style of user arguments. I will think some time about it and will post a poll to my blog with proposals which I think can be better than current syntax. Also it is possible to have different set of functions with the same functionality, but which support different style of arguments. Only requirement for this feature is users suggestions and votes. Therefore, please suggest and vote!

* Another feature for which I need your suggestions is "speed vs validity checks". I again will cite Ulf: "Taken from the README. For most functions manipulating or generating JSON documents is true: Warning! This version does not check whole document for validity. Hey, it is a pre-production release :-)."

But this design was done not because these functions are at the Labs and not because this is alpha version. We discussed this functionality internally, but decided to don't implement validity checks to speed up functions. If you think we did wrong, please, open a feature request at about *safe* version of the functions. I also think that having two sets of "safe" and "fast" functions can also work. But I need to hear your opinions before implementing this feature.

* Another feature for which I want to count user votes is search abilities. Currently, function JSON_SEARCH uses only exact match. There is no support for wildcards, case insensitive search or full-text search. I got complains about such a limitation not only from Ulf, but from users at MySQL Connect too. Therefore I created two feature requests: about LIKE and  about FULLTEXT. If you need these features, please go and vote for them using "Affects Me!" Button.

Current behavior of JSON_SEARCH is tricky and Ulf, expectedly, did mistake when tried to use it. Correct syntax should be select json_search('{"key":"value"}', '"value"' ); and select json_search('{"a":{"b":"c"}}', '"c"' ) instead of select json_search('{"key":"value"}', "value" ); and select json_search('{"a":{"b":"c"}}', "c" ) which he used:

mysql> select json_search('{"key":"value"}', '"value"' )\G
*************************** 1. row ***************************
json_search('{"key":"value"}', '"value"' ): key::
1 row in set (0.00 sec)

mysql> select json_search('{"a":{"b":"c"}}', '"c"' );
| json_search('{"a":{"b":"c"}}', '"c"' ) |
| b:a::                                  |
1 row in set (0.00 sec)

This syntax is used to let you search for objects:

mysql> select json_search('{"a":{"b":"c"}}', '{"b":"c"}' );
| json_search('{"a":{"b":"c"}}', '{"b":"c"}' ) |
| a::                                          |
1 row in set (0.00 sec)

You can also notice "::" in the end of the key path. This is the root element and done by design.

And last Ulf's concern is about syntactic sugar:"With a bit of syntactic sugar, say “SELECT document.member[offset]” this could look much more appealing. On the contrary, I am talking syntaxtic sugar only! Syntactic sugar is really hard to add with todays MySQL."

I so agree here! I wish I could implement the functions in such a way! But it is not possible to change MySQL syntax with UDFs!

And while we can not do much for syntactic sugar, you still can help to make better other features. Please comment and vote for the user manual format and location; parameter syntax; safe versions of the functions and extended search capabilites.

Thank you! :)


Working blog of Sveta Smirnova - MySQL Senior Principal Support Engineer working in Bugs Analysis Support Group


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