hermes-json: Fast JSON decoding via simdjson C++ bindings

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A JSON parsing library focused on speed that binds to the simdjson C++ library using the Haskell FFI. Hermes offers some helpful functions for building fast JSON decoders for your Haskell types.

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Dependencies attoparsec (>=0.13.1 && <0.15), attoparsec-iso8601 (>= && <, base (>=4.13 && <4.18), bytestring (>=0.10.12 && <0.12), deepseq (>=1.4.4 && <1.5), dlist (>=0.8 && <1.1), mtl (>=2.1 && <2.3), scientific (>=0.3.6 && <0.4), text (>= && <1.3 || >=2.0 && <2.1), time (>=1.9.3 && <1.13), time-compat (>=1.9.5 && <1.10), transformers (>=0.5.6 && <0.6), unliftio (>=0.2.14 && <0.3), unliftio-core (>=0.2.0 && <0.3) [details]
License MIT
Author Josh Miller <>
Maintainer Josh Miller <>
Category Text, Web, JSON, FFI
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Source repo head: git clone
Uploaded by velveteer at 2022-10-10T19:02:51Z
Distributions NixOS:
Downloads 266 total (67 in the last 30 days)
Rating 2.0 (votes: 1) [estimated by Bayesian average]
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Status Docs available [build log]
Last success reported on 2022-10-10 [all 1 reports]

Readme for hermes-json-

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A Haskell interface over the simdjson C++ library for decoding JSON documents. Hermes, messenger of the gods, was the maternal great-grandfather of Jason, son of Aeson.


This library exposes functions that can be used to write decoders for JSON documents using the simdjson On Demand API. From the simdjson On Demand design documentation:

Good applications for the On Demand API might be:

You are working from pre-existing large JSON files that have been vetted. You expect them to be well formed according to a known JSON dialect and to have a consistent layout. For example, you might be doing biomedical research or machine learning on top of static data dumps in JSON.

Both the generation and the consumption of JSON data is within your system. Your team controls both the software that produces the JSON and the software the parses it, your team knows and control the hardware. Thus you can fully test your system.

You are working with stable JSON APIs which have a consistent layout and JSON dialect.

With this in mind, Data.Hermes parsers can potentially decode Haskell types faster than traditional Data.Aeson.FromJSON instances, especially in cases where you only need to decode a subset of the document. This is because Data.Aeson.FromJSON converts the entire document into a Data.Aeson.Value, which means memory usage increases linearly with the input size. The simdjson::ondemand API does not have this constraint because it iterates over the JSON string in memory without constructing an intermediate tree. This means decoders are truly lazy and you only pay for what you use.


This library does not offer a Haskell API over the entire simdjson On Demand API. It currently binds only to what is needed for defining and running a Decoder. You can see the tests and benchmarks for example usage. Decoder a is a thin layer over IO that keeps some context around for better error messages. simdjson::ondemand exceptions will be caught and re-thrown with enough information to troubleshoot. In the worst case you may run into a segmentation fault that is not caught, which you are encouraged to report as a bug.


personDecoder :: Value -> Decoder Person
personDecoder = withObject $ \obj ->
    <$> atKey "_id" text obj
    <*> atKey "index" int obj
    <*> atKey "guid" text obj
    <*> atKey "isActive" bool obj
    <*> atKey "balance" text obj
    <*> atKey "picture" (nullable text) obj
    <*> atKey "latitude" scientific obj

-- Decode a strict ByteString.
decodePersons :: ByteString -> Either HermesException [Person]
decodePersons = decodeEither $ list personDecoder

It looks a little like Waargonaut.Decode.Decoder m, just not as polymorphic. The interface is copied because it's elegant and does not rely on typeclasses. However, hermes does not give you a cursor to play with, the cursor is implied and is forward-only (except when accessing object fields). This limitation allows us to write very fast decoders.


When decoding fails for a known reason, you will get a Left HermesException indicating if the error came from simdjson or from an internal hermes call. The exception contains a DocumentError record with some useful information, for example:

*Main> decodeEither (withObject . atKey "hello" $ list text) "{ \"hello\": [\"world\", false] }" 
Left (SIMDException (DocumentError {path = "/hello/1", errorMsg = "Error while getting value of type text. The JSON element does not have the requested type.", docLocation = "false] }", docDebug = "json_iterator [ depth : 3, structural : 'f', offset : 21', error : No error ]"}))


We benchmark the following operations using both hermes-json and aeson strict ByteString decoders:

  • Decode an array of 1 million 3-element arrays of doubles
  • Decode a very small object into a Map
  • Full decoding of a large-ish (12 MB) JSON array of objects
  • Partial decoding of Twitter status objects to highlight the on-demand benefits


  • GHC 9.2.1
  • aeson- with text-2.0
  • Intel Core i7-7500U @2.70GHz / 2x8GB RAM @LPDDR3

Non-threaded runtime

Name Mean (ps) 2*Stdev (ps) Allocated Copied Peak Memory
All.1 Million 3-Arrays.Hermes [[Double]] 514149749400 23001383910 567060714 555767893 548405248
All.1 Million 3-Arrays.Aeson [[Double]] 1909749532600 105016463882 9240071234 918470102 815792128
All.Small Object to Map.Hermes Decode 1402062 89160 4311 143 815792128
All.Small Object to Map.Aeson Lazy 3149933 190718 20444 5 815792128
All.Small Object to Map.Aeson Strict 2960649 197972 20455 3 815792128
All.Full Persons Array.Ordered Keys.Hermes Decode 87606624200 882987914 131017990 61609312 815792128
All.Full Persons Array.Ordered Keys.Aeson Lazy 412865060000 37200085522 1040817535 257682836 815792128
All.Full Persons Array.Ordered Keys.Aeson Strict 294154477200 3203013536 1039500388 171613607 815792128
All.Full Persons Array.Unordered Keys.Hermes Decode 98984943000 3869859988 131482700 61507519 815792128
All.Full Persons Array.Unordered Keys.Aeson Lazy 416241784400 31016972066 1040900869 257736671 815792128
All.Full Persons Array.Unordered Keys.Aeson Strict 295604611200 13477999910 1040897500 171857398 815792128
All.Partial Twitter.Hermes Decode 380242857 21886584 331150 3106 815792128
All.Partial Twitter.Aeson Lazy 14210219600 1363261550 38167991 6912052 815792128
All.Partial Twitter.Aeson Strict 11107521750 697866752 38738747 4728197 815792128

Threaded runtime

Name Mean (ps) 2*Stdev (ps) Allocated Copied Peak Memory
All.1 Million 3-Arrays.Hermes [[Double]] 541920265800 29342742108 567061829 555826856 548405248
All.1 Million 3-Arrays.Aeson [[Double]] 1953230810200 126855715860 9240069761 919129263 815792128
All.Small Object to Map.Hermes Decode 1472371 91562 4311 143 815792128
All.Small Object to Map.Aeson Lazy 3096479 193244 20444 6 815792128
All.Small Object to Map.Aeson Strict 2986724 200024 20456 5 815792128
All.Full Persons Array.Ordered Keys.Hermes Decode 90311085300 7526254196 130369345 60862744 815792128
All.Full Persons Array.Ordered Keys.Aeson Lazy 422369991600 38053428096 1040823664 257776459 815792128
All.Full Persons Array.Ordered Keys.Aeson Strict 300466422000 3072876168 1039500630 171704298 815792128
All.Full Persons Array.Unordered Keys.Hermes Decode 100871024200 2866865436 131482618 61527776 815792128
All.Full Persons Array.Unordered Keys.Aeson Lazy 424049660600 33951808604 1040901105 258769347 815792128
All.Full Persons Array.Unordered Keys.Aeson Strict 303529052800 7155692116 1040895670 172239231 815792128
All.Partial Twitter.Hermes Decode 385226798 22763366 331159 3125 815792128
All.Partial Twitter.Aeson Lazy 14504587600 979839172 38168119 6898312 815792128
All.Partial Twitter.Aeson Strict 11363703650 798733766 38738875 4741485 815792128

Performance Tips

  • Use text >= 2.0 to benefit from its UTF-8 implementation.
  • Decode to Text instead of String wherever possible!
  • Decode to Int or Double instead of Scientific if you can.
  • Decode your object fields in order. Out of order field lookups will slightly degrade performance. If encoding with aeson, you can leverage toEncoding to enforce ordering.
  • You can improve performance by holding onto your own HermesEnv. decodeEither creates and destroys the simdjson instances every time it runs, which adds a performance penalty. Beware, do not share a HermesEnv across multiple threads.


Because the On Demand API uses a forward-only iterator (except for object fields), you must be mindful to not access values out of order. In other words, you should not hold onto a Value to parse later since the iterator may have already moved beyond it.

Because the On Demand API does not validate the entire document upon creating the iterator (besides UTF-8 validation and basic well-formed checks), it is possible to parse an invalid JSON document but not realize it until later. If you need the entire document to be validated up front then a DOM parser is a better fit for you.

The On Demand approach is less safe than DOM: we only validate the components of the JSON document that are used and it is possible to begin ingesting an invalid document only to find out later that the document is invalid. Are you fine ingesting a large JSON document that starts with well formed JSON but ends with invalid JSON content?

This library currently cannot decode scalar documents, e.g. a single string, number, boolean, or null as a JSON document.


Per the simdjson documentation:

A recent compiler (LLVM clang6 or better, GNU GCC 7.4 or better, Xcode 11 or better) on a 64-bit (PPC, ARM or x64 Intel/AMD) POSIX systems such as macOS, freeBSD or Linux. We require that the compiler supports the C++11 standard or better.

However, this library relies on std::string_view without a shim, so C++17 or better is highly recommended.