Thrift vs. Protocol Buffers

Posted on March 21, 2010. Filed under: Computer Science, Programming | Tags: , , , |

Google recently released its Protocol Buffers as open source. About a year ago, Facebook released a similar product called Thrift. I’ve been comparing them; here’s what I’ve found:

Thrift Protocol Buffers
Backers Facebook, Apache (accepted for incubation) Google
Bindings C++, Java, Python, PHP, XSD, Ruby, C#, Perl, Objective C, Erlang, Smalltalk, OCaml, and Haskell C++, Java, Python
(Perl, Ruby, and C# under discussion)
Output Formats Binary, JSON Binary
Primitive Types bool
byte
16/32/64-bit integersdouble
string
byte sequence
map<t1,t2>
list<t>
set<t>
bool32/64-bit integers
float
double
string
byte sequence

“repeated” properties act like lists

Enumerations Yes Yes
Constants Yes No
Composite Type struct message
Exception Type Yes No
Documentation So-so Good
License Apache BSD-style
Compiler Language C++ C++
RPC Interfaces Yes Yes
RPC Implementation Yes No
Composite Type Extensions No Yes

Overall, I think Thrift wins on features and Protocol Buffers win on
documentation. Implementation-wise, they’re quite similar. Both use
integer tags to identify fields, so you can add and remove fields
without breaking existing code. Protocol Buffers support
variable-width encoding of integers, which saves a few bytes. (Thrift
has an experimental output format with variable-width ints.)

The major difference is that Thrift provides a full client/server RPC
implementation, whereas Protocol Buffers only generate stubs to use in
your own RPC system.

Update July 12, 2008: I haven’t tested for speed, but from a cursory examination it seems that, at the binary level, Thrift and Protocol Buffers are very similar. I think Thrift will develop a more coherent community now that it’s under Apache incubation. It just moved to a new web site and mailing list, and the issue tracker is active.

Reference:

http://stuartsierra.com/2008/07/10/thrift-vs-protocol-buffers (Original Site)

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