Communicate with Remote Servers

When you need to send data back and forth with a RESTful webservice or other backend server, you need a way to structure the data that you send and receive.

In a previous age, ajax requests would send key-value pairs to webservices using query parameters or as form-encoded values in the body of a POST request.

However, this gets really bulky when you need to send arrays and nested objects. Imagine trying to transmit these data via URL parameters:

  "subscribe": [

The resulting URL might look something like this:[]=peter&subscribe[]=henrietta&subscribe[]=xavier


However, ajax requests are perfectly capable of sending JSON-encoded payloads within the body of a POST request, which is much cleaner. Here is an example of how to send a JSON-encoded POST body with the jQuery library:

  "contentType": "application/json",
  "data": '{"subscribe": ["peter", "henrietta", "xavier"]}',

Note that you have to send the JSON object as a string, since otherwise jQuery will invoke the object’s toString() method, and you’ll end up sending “[object Object]”, which is not particularly helpful!

Just about every server-side language has a JSON library, so decoding the incoming request payload on the server side is trivial. Here are some resources for common server-side languages:

  • C#
  • Java
  • PHP
  • Python
  • Ruby

Don’t forget to have the remote service send back its response in JSON, too!