JSON, REST, SOAP or simply innerHTML ?


This is one classic question that often gets asked while working on websites that typically have many AJAX requests for rendering a dynamic page. The AJAX results could be a result of interaction, but I have noticed many pages making AJAX requests even for the first view of the page. Though the format in which data is delivered is not a "BIG" concern for the backend server (there are other things to worry about) code developers, this decision can potentially change the design of front end. People may argue that just like the backend, we could plug in adapters/converters for the data format, I personally feel that this would only end up making javascript unnecessarily heavy. Given the nature of JavaScript, adapters at the backend would be easier and quicker to write. Before trying to answer the question, the rendering mechanism of the individual schemes could be considered, outlining the pros and cons of each approach.
SOAP-XML is too heavy and I would prefer the backend to give me a stripped down REST version of the data. The times when the front end requires the data type of an object (given that JavaScript is loosely typed), are rare. Most data from the data is primarily used display things. Even if data type is required for special front end operations (like sorting tables), assumptions can be made about the table contents when writing the sort code in JavaScript.
REST was good, but it is no way near to representing the native data representation. The access mechanism using xPath is also slower. I would prefer data to be JSON. After all, JSON is just a different way to write RES; different syntax, but the same semantics. I usually end up writing a JSON convector for REST data, hence would prefer the backend server to have a layer that churns out data in JSON as well.
The real contest is between JSON and innnerHTML. In case of JSON, the data would be picked up by JavaScript code and inserted into appropriate HTML typically using variations of document.getElementById() and setting the required attribute. This is easy if the elements to be changed are distributed. However, rendering clustered data like tables etc results in looping, leaving chunks of HTML inside the JavaScript code.

var htmlString = "<table>";
for (var i = 0; i <10; i++)
htmlString += <tr><td>fromServer.name + "</td></tr>"
someElement.innerHTML = htmlString;

The HTML strings inside JavaScript soon become complex and hard to maintain, specially as changing styles inside JavaScript strings is not a great idea.
This is when I would prefer receiving HTML chunks from the server. All that is required is to read the response text and set it as an innerHTML. Other operations like sorting, etc could also be embedded into this HTML chunk, either as a inline JavaScript function (not a great idea), or reference to an external JS file. This approach also helps us to look at results in isolation making debugging code and rendering easier. This HTML chunk could use the same stylesheet included into the page.
To summarize my take on this question, I believe that XML, both SOAP and REST are a little uncomfortable due to the extra chunk of code that needs to be thrown in for rendering them. JSON is great as long as the changes that this brings about is distributed across the page. The server sending me HTML is preferable when I have to change chunks of a page, specially when they seem to be logical components of a page. Would love to hear comments on this.