While this video is from back in July 2009, it’s a great story around how JSON came to be and has some solid lessons in it for people developing new data formats:
Video: Douglas Crockford — The JSON Saga
Yahoo! thankfully provided a full transcript of the video on that page so that if you don’t have time to watch the video (I initially didn’t) you can simply scan down the text.
I enjoyed the emphasis on “less is more” and on the need to remove functionality to make it simpler. At one point Crockford says (taken from the transcript):
One of the key design goals behind JSON was minimalism. My idea was that the less we have to agree on in order to inter-operate, the more likely we’re going to be able to inter-operate well. If the interfaces are really simple, we can easily connect, and if the interfaces are really complicated, the likelihood that something’s going to go wrong goes way, way up. So I endeavored to make JSON as simple as possible.
I had a goal of being able to put JSON standard on the back of a business card. And this is the card. Come see me if you want one of these cards; it’s the JSON card, it’s got the JSON standard on the back.
He goes on at some length about XML, language design and much, much more. If you have 50 minutes to watch the video, it’s worth it. (Alternatively, the transcript is excellent.)