Error handling

During serialization, the Serialize trait maps a Rust data structure into Serde's data model and the Serializer trait maps the data model into the output format. During deserialization, the Deserializer maps the input data into Serde's data model and the Deserialize and Visitor traits map the data model into the resulting data structure. Any of these steps can fail.

  • Serialize can fail, for example when a Mutex<T> is being serialized and the mutex happens to be poisoned.
  • Serializer can fail, for example the Serde data model allows maps with non-string keys but JSON does not.
  • Deserializer can fail, especially if the input data is syntactically invalid.
  • Deserialize can fail, usually because the input is the wrong type for the value it is being deserialized into.

In Serde, errors from the Serializer and Deserializer work just like they would in any other Rust library. The crate defines an error type, public functions return a Result with that error type, and there are variants for the various possible failure modes.

Handling of errors from the Serialize and Deserialize, the data structure being processed by the library, is built around the ser::Error and de::Error traits. These traits allow the data format to expose constructors for its error type for the data structure to use in various situations.


use std;
use std::fmt::{self, Display};

use serde::{de, ser};

pub type Result<T> = std::result::Result<T, Error>;

// This is a bare-bones implementation. A real library would provide additional
// information in its error type, for example the line and column at which the
// error occurred, the byte offset into the input, or the current key being
// processed.
pub enum Error {
    // One or more variants that can be created by data structures through the
    // `ser::Error` and `de::Error` traits. For example the Serialize impl for
    // Mutex<T> might return an error because the mutex is poisoned, or the
    // Deserialize impl for a struct may return an error because a required
    // field is missing.

    // Zero or more variants that can be created directly by the Serializer and
    // Deserializer without going through `ser::Error` and `de::Error`. These
    // are specific to the format, in this case JSON.

impl ser::Error for Error {
    fn custom<T: Display>(msg: T) -> Self {

impl de::Error for Error {
    fn custom<T: Display>(msg: T) -> Self {

impl Display for Error {
    fn fmt(&self, formatter: &mut fmt::Formatter) -> fmt::Result {
        match self {
            Error::Message(msg) => formatter.write_str(msg),
            Error::Eof => formatter.write_str("unexpected end of input"),
            /* and so forth */

impl std::error::Error for Error {}