A hot-take brain-dump:

Seems like two aspects: What and how. (The serialization format and
the communication method.)

What: The correct answer is s-expressions. :)  Maybe EDN.  OK, OK. A
more agnostic answer is JSON -- it has flaws, but it's widely
supported among languages, and "everything is a dictionary" is a
decent first approximation for many things.  If people think plain
text is a problem not a feature, (a) they're wrong :) but (b) there
are things like BSON and Protocol Buffers as David mentioned.

How: For things that fit a request/response model, HTTP has already
figured out a lot of stuff you might not want to. Also keep in mind it
even supports things like partial random-access (Range headers) and
memoization (ETags).  If request/response isn't a good fit, there's
also RFC 6455 aka WebSockets?

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