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Serde is a framework for serializing and deserializing Rust data structures efficiently and generically.

The Serde ecosystem consists of data structures that know how to serialize and deserialize themselves along with data formats that know how to serialize and deserialize other things. Serde provides the layer by which these two groups interact with each other, allowing any supported data structure to be serialized and deserialized using any supported data format.


Where many other languages rely on runtime reflection for serializing data, Serde is instead built on Rust's powerful trait system. A data structure that knows how to serialize and deserialize itself is one that implements Serde's Serialize and Deserialize traits (or uses Serde's code generation to automatically derive implementations at compile time). This avoids any overhead of reflection or runtime type information. In fact in many situations the interaction between data structure and data format can be completely optimized away by the Rust compiler, leaving Serde serialization to perform roughly the same speed as a handwritten serializer for the specific selection of data structure and data format.

Data formats

The following is a partial list of data formats that have been implemented for Serde by the community.

  • JSON, the ubiquitous JavaScript Object Notation used by many HTTP APIs.
  • Bincode, a compact binary format used for IPC within the Servo rendering engine.
  • CBOR, a Concise Binary Object Representation designed for small message size without the need for version negotiation.
  • YAML, a popular human-friendly configuration language that ain't markup language.
  • MessagePack, an efficient binary format that resembles a compact JSON.
  • TOML, a minimal configuration format used by Cargo.
  • Pickle, a format common in the Python world.
  • Hjson, a variant of JSON designed to be readable and writable by humans.
  • BSON, the data storage and network transfer format used by MongoDB.
  • URL, the x-www-form-urlencoded format.
  • XML, the flexible machine-friendly W3C standard. (deserialization only)
  • Envy, a way to deserialize environment variables into Rust structs. (deserialization only)
  • Redis, deserialize values from Redis when using redis-rs. (deserialization only)

Data structures

Out of the box, Serde is able to serialize and deserialize common Rust data types in any of the above formats. For example String, &str, usize, Vec<T>, HashMap<K,V> are all supported. In addition, Serde provides code generation to #[derive] serialization implementations for structs in your own program. Using the code generation goes like this:

extern crate serde_derive;

extern crate serde_json;

#[derive(Serialize, Deserialize, Debug)]
struct Point {
    x: i32,
    y: i32,

fn main() {
    let point = Point { x: 1, y: 2 };

    // Convert the Point to a JSON string.
    let serialized = serde_json::to_string(&point).unwrap();

    // Prints serialized = {"x":1,"y":2}
    println!("serialized = {}", serialized);

    // Convert the JSON string back to a Point.
    let deserialized: Point = serde_json::from_str(&serialized).unwrap();

    // Prints deserialized = Point { x: 1, y: 2 }
    println!("deserialized = {:?}", deserialized);