Boss Protocol

Supported version: 1.4 (stream mode with no caching, regular cached mode)

BOSS is an acronym for Binary Object Streaming Specification.

The bit-effective, platform-independent streamable and traversable typed binary protocol. Allow to effectively store small or any sized integers, strings or binary data of any size, floats and doubles, arrays and hashes in a very effective way. It caches repeating objects and stores/restores links to objects.

The protocol allow to effectively store texts and binary data of absolutely any size, signed integers of absolutely any size, arrays and hashes with no limit on items and overall gross size. It is desirable to use build-in compression when appropriate.

Streamable means that you can use a pipe (for example tcp/ip), put the object at one side and load it on other, one-by-one, and caching and links will be restored properly.

Initially, this protocol was intended to be used in secure communications. Its main goal was to very effective data sending and is a great replacement for json/boss/whatever. For example, typical JSON reduces in size twice with Boss.

Boss protocol also allow to transparently compress its representations.

Boss also supports "stream mode" that lacks tree reconstruction but could be effectively use when implementing long-living streams (e.g. stream protocols). In regular mode it causes unlimited cache grows as Boss would try to reconstruct all possible references to already serialized objects. In the stream mode only strings are cached, and cache size and capacity are dynamically limited. Boss writes stream mode marker and handles stream mode on receiving end automatically.

Supported types:

  • Signed integers of any length
  • Signed floats and doubles (4 or 8 bytes)
  • Boolean values (true/false)
  • UTF-8 encoded texts, any length
  • Binary data, any length
  • Time objects (date and time rounded to 1 second resolution)
  • Arrays with any number of elements
  • Hashes with any keys and values and unlimited length
  • Reference to the object that already was serialized

There is a pending extension to serialize user types that will be available soon or even faster - leave me a request in issues. There are also versions in C and Python that are in most part ready but are parts in other systems and need to be extracted first.


Add this line to your application's Gemfile:

gem 'boss-protocol'

And then execute:

$ bundle

Or install it yourself as:

$ gem install boss-protocol

Simple Usage

1.9.3-p327 :011 > require 'boss-protocol'
 => false
1.9.3-p327 :012 > data = { 'test' => [1, 2, -1.22, 'great!'] }
 => {"test"=>[1, 2, -1.22, "great!"]}
1.9.3-p327 :013 > x = Boss.dump data
 => "\x0F#test&\b\x109\x85\xEBQ\xB8\x1E\x85\xF3\xBF3great!"
1.9.3-p327 :014 > Marshal.dump data
 => "\x04\b{\x06I\"\ttest\x06:\x06ET[\ti\x06i\af\n-1.22I\"\vgreat!\x06;\x00T"

Note that boss representation is smaller than ruby's Marshal one

1.9.3-p327 :015 > Boss.load(x) == data
 => true

To use the transparent compression:

1.9.3-p327 :013 >   data = "Boss is a very effective protocol!" * 4096; nil
 => nil
1.9.3-p327 :014 > data.length
 => 139264
1.9.3-p327 :015 > x = Boss.dump_compressed(data); nil
 => nil
1.9.3-p327 :016 > x.length
 => 147
1.9.3-p327 :017 > data == Boss.load(x)
 => true

Streaming sample

This sample shows boss object hierarchies passing between 2 forked processes using a pipe (see samples/):

if fork
  if true
    # You can do it with block: { |obj| puts "Got an object: #{obj}" }
    # You can do it without block too:
    input = rd
    puts "Got an object: #{input.get}" while !input.eof?
  out = wr
  out << ["Foo", "bar"]
  out.put_compressed "Zz"*62
  out << ["Hello", "world", "!"]
  out << { "That's all" => "folks!" }

Both ways in the sample are identical; second one (with get) may be sometimes more convenient, say, to terminate object polling on some condition before eof.

All you need is IO-like object that provide on the read side and io.write(data) on another, capable to read/write binary data. Usual files, pipes, tcp sockets, stringIO - everything is ok.

The protocol could be very effectively used to form higher level protocols over the network as it caches data on the fly and can provide links (if used with

Note about caching objects

When reconstructing object tree, cache is used for strings. As ruby language hash mutable strings, it might cause side effects, as all ecounters of a given string will share same object after reconstruction. For this reason, ruby implementation freezes shared strings.


  1. Fork it
  2. Create your feature branch (git checkout -b my-new-feature)
  3. Commit your changes (git commit -am 'Add some feature')
  4. Push to the branch (git push origin my-new-feature)
  5. Create new Pull Request