Protobuf Vs. Messagepack: What’s The Difference?

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When considering data serialization formats, two popular choices are Protocol Buffers (protobuf) and MessagePack. In this article, we’ll analyze protobuf vs messagepack in terms of structure, performance, usage scenarios, and security considerations to help you decide which format is most suitable for your project requirements. So let’s dive into the details of these two powerful binary data serialization formats.



Protocol Buffers, or Protobuf for short, is a binary serialization format developed by Google. Protobuf facilitates the swift definition of data structures and their transmission through networks with optimal efficiency. Protobuf offers features such as message compression, schema evolution support, backward compatibility between different versions of the same protocol, and automatic code generation from the defined structure. This makes it ideal for use cases such as streaming data over networks or storing large amounts of data on disk.


MessagePack is another binary serialization format that was created by Yoshihiro Kawabata in 2008. Unlike Protobuf, which requires a pre-defined schema to be written before any messages can be sent or received, MessagePack does not require this step. Instead, it uses dynamic typing so that messages can be sent without a prior definition of their structure. This, however, comes at the cost of less efficiency than Protobuf due to its lack of compression capabilities and message size optimization techniques.

Key Differences between MessagePack and Protobuf

When assessing the two formats, it is important to consider their differences in terms of backward compatibility and message size optimization techniques; Protobuf is more advanced in this regard. For example, while both offer similar performance levels, they differ significantly in handling backward compatibility and message size optimization techniques; Protobuf is superior in this regard. Additionally, MessagePack’s dynamic typing makes it easier to work with but also comes at the cost of reduced efficiency compared to its counterpart’s pre-defined schemas approach, which provides better performance overall due to improved compression capabilities and optimized message sizes.

Protobuf and MessagePack are both structured data formats that can be used to send messages between different systems. When comparing these two protocols, it is essential to assess factors such as speed, size, and reliability in order to make an informed decision about which one offers the best performance.

Key Takeaway: Protobuf offers superior performance due to its message compression, schema evolution support, and code generation capabilities. On the other hand, MessagePack’s dynamic typing makes it easier to work with but comes at the cost of reduced efficiency compared to Protobuf. Ultimately, the selection between these two formats is contingent on the individual demands of each project.



Protocol Buffers (Protobuf) is a binary data serialization format developed by Google for efficient data exchange between applications. It is designed to be compact and fast, making it suitable for use in network communication protocols and distributed systems. Protobuf enables an optimized message encoding process that can decrease the size of messages when compared to other text-based formats, such as JSON or XML. Protobuf provides advantageous characteristics, such as version control, field selection, and type validation which can help preserve compatibility between different versions of the same program or service.


MessagePack is an open-source binary data serialization format developed by a Japanese company called FURYU Corporation. Like Protobuf, MessagePack also provides an optimized message encoding system that can reduce the size of messages compared to text-based formats such as JSON or XML. MessagePack lacks the capability of versioning or type verification, which could make it difficult to maintain compatibility when updating versions of an application or service.

Protobuf and MessagePack offer different performance advantages, so it’s important to understand which one is best for your use case. Considering the potential applications, let’s explore where each of these protocols might be most effective.

Use Cases


Protobuf can be used to encode structured data in an efficient yet extensible format. Protobuf is widely utilized in distributed systems, mobile apps, and IoT gadgets due to its capacity to move data quickly over the network with limited overhead. Its binary encoding makes it particularly suitable for streaming large amounts of data over the wire without incurring much bandwidth or latency costs. Additionally, Protobuf offers language-neutral support, allowing developers to build services that can communicate across different programming languages and platforms.


MessagePack is designed for high-performance communication between microservices and other distributed systems, such as IoT devices. It was created as an alternative to JSON, which has become increasingly inefficient when dealing with larger datasets due to its verbose text representation. MessagePack provides a more compact binary representation of structured data which reduces both the size and processing time required when transferring information over networks or storing it on disk drives. Furthermore, like Protobuf, MessagePack also supports multiple languages, so developers can easily create cross-platform services without having to worry about compatibility issues between different programming environments or operating systems.

When assessing Protobuf and MessagePack, it is important to consider the disparities between them, which could make one preferable over the other based on individual needs. In terms of performance, both formats are highly optimized for speed, making them well-suited for applications where low latency is essential such as real-time gaming or financial trading platforms where every millisecond counts towards the success or failure of a transaction request/response cycle. However, if you’re looking for smaller payload sizes, then Messagepack might be better since its compression algorithm results in significantly lower file sizes compared with Protobuf’s encoding scheme, which tends to produce slightly larger files than those generated by its counterpart.

Protobuf and MessagePack both offer useful use cases, but it is important to consider the security implications of each protocol before making a decision. Security is a critical factor when it comes to engineering, so let’s analyze the security and dependability of these two protocols.

Key Takeaway: Protobuf and MessagePack are both efficient data serialization formats designed to reduce latency when transferring large datasets. Both provide language-neutral support for cross-platform communication; however, Messagepack offers a more compact binary representation which can result in smaller payload sizes compared with Protobuf’s encoding scheme.

Security Considerations

Security considerations are important for engineers and engineering students to understand. The message structure of Protobuf is defined in a .proto file, and the resulting code can be used for encoding/decoding messages of that type. When it comes to security, Protobuf provides some features, such as encryption of field values using an XOR-based obfuscation algorithm or the ability to sign fields with a digital signature. However, these features need to be implemented manually and may not provide sufficient protection against malicious actors who have access to the source code or compiled binaries. No native authentication system is available to authenticate the origin of messages.

Malicious actors attempting to modify transmitted messages without detection will find MessagePack’s compact binary representation a difficult nut to crack, as they would have difficulty reconstructing valid packets without being privy to the original content sent by the sender system. Therefore, cryptographic hashes such as SHA256 can be employed for authenticating message payloads from trusted sources prior to decoding them into their native form, thus providing an additional layer of security that should not be overlooked.

In a nutshell, Protobuf provides some security features, but they must be implemented manually. MessagePack’s binary representation makes it harder for malicious actors to modify transmitted messages without detection; thus, cryptographic hashes can be employed to authenticate message payloads from trusted sources.

Common Questions on Protobuf vs Messagepack

What is the difference between MessagePack and protocol buffers?

MessagePack and Protocol Buffers are two different data serialization formats. MessagePack is a binary-based format that stores structured data in an efficient way, while Protocol Buffers uses text-based language for encoding messages which makes it more human-readable but less space efficient than MessagePack. MessagePack offers faster performance due to its binary structure, whereas Protocol Buffers require the use of code generation for specific languages before usage. Additionally, Messagepack supports many types of data, such as strings and integers, without any additional configuration or setup, whereas with protocol buffers, one needs to define message structures first before they can be used.

What are the drawbacks of Protobuf?

Protobuf has some drawbacks. Inheritance not being supported can be a challenge when attempting to use Protobuf, making code reuse hard and limiting flexibility with complex data structures. Additionally, Protobuf requires manual coding to define messages, making it time-consuming and error-prone compared to other serialization protocols such as JSON or XML. Lastly, because Protobuf uses binary encoding for its messages, there can be compatibility problems between different versions of a message if they are not updated in sync across all services using them.

Is MessagePack faster than JSON?

MessagePack is a binary serialization format that is faster than JSON when it comes to data exchange between servers and web applications. It offers better performance due to its compact binary representation of data, which requires fewer bytes compared to the text-based JSON. Additionally, MessagePack also supports more types of values such as int64, uint64, and float32/float64, while JSON only supports numbers up to 64 bits in length. As a result, MessagePack can provide superior speed when handling larger amounts of data compared with JSON.

Why use MessagePack?

MessagePack is a method of encoding data that allows for compact storage and transmission, resulting in more efficient machine-to-machine communication and faster processing of larger datasets. It allows for more efficient communication between machines, as well as faster processing of large datasets. Its binary encoding ensures smaller message sizes compared to other formats like JSON or XML, resulting in improved performance when transferring over networks. MessagePack also supports dynamic typing which makes it easy to use with any language or platform without the need for extra coding. Overall, MessagePack is an ideal choice for engineers and developers looking for a reliable solution when dealing with complex data structures across multiple systems.


Protobuf and MessagePack are both efficient data serialization formats that have different structures, performance capabilities, use cases and security considerations. Ultimately the decision of which format to choose depends on your specific requirements.

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