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JSON-RPC is a HTTP- and/or raw TCP socket-based interface for communicating with XBMC. It replaces the soon-to-be-depreceated HTTP API, and offers a more secure and robust mechanism in the same format. It is based upon the JSON-RPC 2.0 specification.

Each method in the interface can have different security needs which means one client may be allowed to only control playback while another can only read and manipulate the library. In version 2 (first stable) and 4 all clients are granted full authority but will later be forced to ask for privileges and the user of XBMC will have to grant said client access. The design of JSON-RPC is that most methods should behave roughly the same and maintain consistency while hiding the mechanics of XBMC from the client creator.

In XBMC JSON-RPC can be accessed over a variety of transports and has been designed from the ground up to be flexible to allow control over new transports easily. Some of the transports have different limitations which will be enforced upon the interaction over that transport. As an example HTTP transports allow response and downloading of files while the raw TCP transport allows response and notifications (events and information XBMC sends to its clients). Depending on the client's needs it will choose one (or many) of the available transports.


1 Enabling JSON-RPC

Since the interface is available on many transports enabling it depends on the transport.

  • Python: Always enabled
  • HTTP: In System/Settings/Network/Services activate Allow control of XBMC via HTTP
  • TCP: In System/Settings/Network/Services activate Allow programs on this system to control XBMC for localhost access only and Allow programs on other systems to control XBMC for access from other computers as well

Note: The EventServer is a different interface for sending remote keypresses to XBMC, and must be enabled separately, some programs may use both interfaces.

2 Transports

2.1 Functionalities


2.2 Comparison

The following table shows all the available transports and what functionalities they support

Transport Response Notifications Direct file
Redirected file
Python Yes Yes No No
TCP Yes Yes No No
HTTP Yes No No Yes

3 API versions

The JSON-RPC API exposed by XBMC is constantly extended to provide better and more functionality to third party applications. For that reason XBMC provides a version information through the JSONRPC.Version method. The rule is that odd version numbers describe an API state, that is not stable and under heavy development whereas even version numbers describe a stable API. Therefore the version number can be used by third party clients to check if their application might not be fully compatible with the JSON-RPC API exposed by a users XBMC installation.

Since the first release of the JSON-RPC API in XBMC 10.0 (Dharma) there have been the following versions of the API:

3.1 Comparison (JSON-RPC 2.0 compatibility)

Version Method calls Notifications
Bulk requests
Version 2 Yes Yes No Yes No No
Version 3 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

4 Documentation


5 Debugging

5.1 Output format

To be able to support easier debugging of (third party) development using the JSON-RPC API, the JSON output generated by XBMC can be pretty printed by setting


in the advancedsettings.xml. Default JSON output will be in compact format to minimize sent data (especially useful for mobile devices).

5.2 Direct interaction

To be able to test some methods of XBMC's JSON-RPC API it can be of great help to be able to send a single hand-written JSON-RPC request to XBMC to see its effect and the generated response. Depending on the transport protocol used there are different possibilities to do that:

5.2.1 TCP

With a telnet connection (using PuTTY on Windows or telnet on Linux) to port 9090 of the machine running XBMC it is possible to send and receive raw json data to/from XBMC.

5.2.2 HTTP

A simple way of manually sending HTTP requests containing a JSON-RPC request to XBMC is using the Simple REST Client extension for Google's Chrome/Chromium browser. It allows defining an URL and the HTTP request type (POST is what we need). The actual JSON-RPC request can be defined in the Data field and then sent to XBMC.

6 External links

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