HAL provides a set of conventions for expressing hyperlinks in either JSON or XML.

The rest of a HAL document is just plain old JSON or XML.

Instead of using ad-hoc structures, or spending valuable time designing your own format; you can adopt HAL's conventions and focus on building and documenting the data and transitions that make up your API.

HAL is a little bit like HTML for machines, in that it is generic and designed to drive many different types of application via hyperlinks. The difference is that HTML has features for helping 'human actors' move through a web application to achieve their goals, whereas HAL is intended for helping 'automated actors' move through a web API to achieve their goals.

Having said that, HAL is actually very human-friendly too. Its conventions make the documentation for an API discoverable from the API messages themselves. This makes it possible for developers to jump straight into a HAL-based API and explore its capabilities, without the cognitive overhead of having to map some out-of-band documentation onto their journey.