Parsing a JSON string results in an 'Invalid Label' error

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Heads up! This post was written in 2008, so it may contain information that is no longer accurate. I keep posts like this around for historical purposes and to prevent link rot, so please keep this in mind as you're reading.

— Cory

Whenever I work with AJAX, jQuery is my preferred JavaScript library and PHP is my preferred server-side language. I use JSON whenever I can to pass data between JavaScript and PHP. After all, $.get and $.post both process JSON easily, so it's my data type of choice.

Sometimes, however, I can't rely on $.get and $.post to do the dirty work for me. One example is when I'm using a hidden iframe to upload a file via "AJAX". To do this, the form posts the file to a server-side script. The script loads in the hidden iframe, so users don't see what's happening behind the scene. Once the upload is complete, the script outputs some information about the file to the iframe (filename, location, size, etc.). You can then use JavaScript to capture that information.

For the sake of consistency, my server-side script always outputs a valid JSON string. I rely on this data, which gets scooped out of the iframe, to tell me if the file got uploaded successfully and, if not, what the error was. If so, I need to know the filename, size, and location. What ends up in the iframe usually looks something like this:


To parse the JSON string into a JavaScript object, I use eval(). (Some people prefer to use a JSON parser, but since the output of the script is controlled, I've never found it necessary for this application.) Alas, when JavaScript evaluates the string it results in an invalid label error.

The error is the result of eval() interpreting the first item in the string as a label. This gets me everytime, but it's extremely easy to fix. Simply wrap the JSON string in parenthesis within eval():

var response = eval('(' + jsonString + ')');

This is one of those JavaScript ""gotchas", so I hope I can save people (and myself) a lot of time by documenting it.