Parsing Arrays in JSON

Till now we’ve successfully parsed simple JSON dictionaries along with value transformations. In this post, we’ll see how to parse array of objects.

Posts in this series:
    "name": {
      "first_name": "Lex",
      "last_name": "Luthor"
    "age": 28,
    "gender": "male",
    "address": {
      "street": "244 Clifton Place",
      "city": "Edneyville",
      "state": "Maine"
    "skills": [
    "name": {
      "first_name": "Ada",
      "last_name": "Stuart"
    "age": 29,
    "gender": "female",
    "address": {
      "street": "754 Marconi Place",
      "city": "Rosburg",
      "state": "Louisiana"
    "skills": [
// Our Models
struct Customer {
    let name: String // first_name, last_name
    let age: Int
    let gender: Gender
    let address: Address
    let skills: [String]

enum Gender {
    case Unknown, Male, Female

struct Address {
    let street: String
    let city: String
    let state: String

// Curried initializers
func makeAddress(street: String) -> (city: String) -> (state: String) -> Address {
    return { city in { state in
        return Address(street: street, city: city, state: state)

func makeCustomer(name: String) -> (age: Int) -> (gender: Gender) -> (address: Address) -> (skills: [String]) -> Customer {
    return { age in { gender in { address in { skills in
        return Customer(name: name, age: age, gender: gender, address: address, skills: skills)

We’ve already defined a custom operator <~~ that transforms the given value using a transformation function. Now, let’s define another operator <<~ that does almost the same thing, except it now applies the given transformation on each value of provided array. Because the transformation may fail, we can use flatMap to remove nil values that resulted due to failed transformations.

infix operator <<~ {
    associativity left
    precedence 110

// An operator that applies f on each value of x
// and return the values that came out through
// successfull transformation
func <<~<A, B>(x: [A]?, f: (A -> B?)) -> [B]? {
    guard let x = x else {
        return nil
    // apply f on each value of x
    // and remove the nil values
    // (values that couldn't be
    // transformed by f)
    return{ $0 }

NSJSONSerialization.JSONObjectWithData returns an AnyObject. But, to parse our above JSON array, we need to cast it to [AnyObject].

We can simply write:

let x = NSJSONSerialization.JSONObjectWithData(...) as? [AnyObject]

Because, we are following functional approach, let’s overload the get function that does this casting for us in more functional way:

// A function that takes AnyObject and tries to
// cast it to a specific type T (can fail, that's why it is Optional)
func get<T>(item: AnyObject) -> T? {
    return item as? T

Now, we got everything we need:

  • A function, get, that converts our AnyObject we got from NSJSONSerialization.JSONObjectWithData(...) into an array [AnyObject]
  • A custom operator, <<~, that takes this [AnyObject] and applies the transformation function

So, let’s start the parsing

let customers = get(jsonObject) <<~ parseCustomer

guard let customers = customers  else {
    print("Couldn't parse customers")


// Transform the given String to a Gender Enum
func parseGender(gender: String) -> Gender {
    switch gender {
    case "male":
        return .Male
    case "female":
        return .Female
        return .Unknown

// transform the given Dictionary of "first_name" and "last_name"
// into a name of the form "first_name, last_name"
func parseName(data: [String: AnyObject]) -> String? {
    return ["first_name", "last_name"].map{ data[$0] as? String }
                                      .flatMap{ $0 }
                                      .joinWithSeparator(", ")

func parseAddress(data: [String: AnyObject]) -> Address? {
    return makeAddress <*> get(data, key: "street")
                       <*> get(data, key: "city")
                       <*> get(data, key: "state")

func parseCustomer(data: [String: AnyObject]) -> Customer? {
    return makeCustomer <*> get(data, key: "name")     <~~ parseName
                        <*> get(data, key: "age")
                        <*> get(data, key: "gender")   <~~ parseGender
                        <*> get(data, key: "address")  <~~ parseAddress
                        <*> get(data, key: "skills")

You can find the whole source code as Gist on GitHub