authored by Wayne Witzel III

Pyramid - JSON Serialize Custom Objects

On July 17, 2012 In python, pyramid Permalink

When writing web application that expose an API, at some point we end up needing to serialize our custom objects. We create these objects ourselves and other times we are using third-party libraries.

Fortunately the latest Pyramid master has new features that allow you to easily define a serialization protocol for custom objects.

We provide you with two approaches, the first one will feel familar if you have used TurboGears. The second allows you to handle the serialization of any object, even those third-party ones you didn't write.

Using __json__

Using the __json__ method is great when you want an easy way to serialize your own objects. All you need to do is define a __json__ method on your class and use the default json renderer on your view. Like this.

class CustomObject(object):
    def __init__(self, name, email): = name = email
        self.timestamp = datetime.utcnow()
    def __json__(self, request):
        return dict(

@view_config(route_name="custom_object", renderer="json")
def custom_object(request):
    from objects import CustomObject
    results = dict(
            CustomObject('Wayne Witzel III', ''),
            CustomObject('Fake Person', ''),

return results

You can see here, this is taking the non-serializable datetime that is part of your custom object and turning it into a serializable string using the isoformat call. The default json renderer looks for this special __json__ method. Once you have that defined, there is nothing more for us to do. As long as the return of __json__ is serializable, everything is handled for us. Even when returning lists of custom objects, like say the results of a SQL query.

Using add_adapter

Now if extending the object itself isn't desirable, you can use a custom adapater. This uses a type checking approach, that registers a serialization method for a specific type. It has a little more setup than the __json__ approach above, but is great when dealing with built-in types of third party objects.

First we create a method that knows how to serialize our object.

class ThirdPartyObject(object):
    def __init__(self):
        self.value = Decimal(0.1)

def third_party_adapter(obj, request):
    return dict(

So here, we define a very simple adapter that knows how to deal with our Decimal value. Now in our __init__ we need to tell Pyramid about this custom method.

json_third_party = JSON()
json_third_party.add_adapter(ThirdPartyObject, third_party_adapter)
config.add_renderer('json_third_party', json_third_party)
config.add_route('third_party', '/third_party.json')

Finally we can now tell our view to use our newly registered json_third_party renderer when our view returns.

@view_config(route_name="third_party", renderer="json_third_party")
def third_party(request):
    from objects import ThirdPartyObject
    results = dict(
    return results

As you can see if is very easy to configure Pyramid to JSON serialize custom objects even if you aren't the original author or don't want to modify the code of an object.


You can try out this feature by checking out the latest copy of Pyramid master from Github. A working Pyramid demo for this blog post is available here.

Reference: Renderers

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