What is GraphQL ?
It’s a specification. Website – https://graphql.org
GraphQL is a new API standard that provides a more efficient, powerful and flexible alternative to REST. It was developed and open-sourced by Facebook and is now maintained by a large community of companies and individuals from all over the world.
GraphQL – A Query Language for APIs
Most applications today have the need to fetch data from a server where that data is stored in a database. It’s the responsibility of the API to provide an interface to the stored data that fits an application’s needs.
GraphQL is often confused with being a database technology. This is a misconception, GraphQL is a query language for APIs – not databases. In that sense it’s database agnostic and effectively can be used in any context where an API is used.
A more efficient Alternative to REST
GraphQL is an alternative to REST for developing APIs, but it has both advantages and disadvantages compared to REST.
REST has been a popular way to expose data from a server. When the concept of REST was developed, client applications were relatively simple and the development pace wasn’t nearly where it is today. REST thus was a good fit for many applications. However, the API landscape has radically changed over the last couple of years. In particular, there are three factors that have been challenging the way APIs are designed:
1. Increased mobile usage creates need for efficient data loading
Increased mobile usage, low-powered devices and sloppy networks were the initial reasons why Facebook developed GraphQL. GraphQL minimizes the amount of data that needs to be transferred over the network and thus majorly improves applications operating under these conditions.
2. Variety of different frontend frameworks and platforms
The heterogeneous landscape of frontend frameworks and platforms that run client applications makes it difficult to build and maintain one API that would fit the requirements of all. With GraphQL, each client can access precisely the data it needs.
3. Fast development & expectation for rapid feature development
Continuous deployment has become a standard for many companies, rapid iterations and frequent product updates are indispensable. With REST APIs, the way data is exposed by the server often needs to be modified to account for specific requirements and design changes on the client-side. This hinders fast development practices and product iterations.
Advantages and Disadvantages of using GraphQL over REST APIs :
Advantages of GraphQL:
- GraphQL APIs have a strong typed schema
- Enables Declarative Fetching (No more overfetching or underfetching)
- GraphQL server exposes single endpoint and responds to queries.
- GraphQL enables rapid product development
- Rich open-source ecosystem and an amazing community
One of the main advantage of GraphQL is that clients have the ability to dictate exactly what they need from the server and receive that data in predictable way. This reduces overfetching and can result in improved performance. Additionally, GraphQL allows for many resources to be retrieved in a single request.
At its core, GraphQL enables declarative data fetching where a client can specify exactly what data it needs from an API. Instead of multiple endpoints that return fixed data structures, a GraphQL server only exposes a single endpoint and responds with precisely the data a client asked for.
Disadvantages of GraphQL :
However, there are some drawbacks of using Graphql. For example – error handling is more difficult than with REST API’s due to the lack of built-in error-messages and stacktrace.
Additionally, GraphQL does not have built-in caching support like REST API’s do, which means user must set up their own caching system. Finally while GraphQL simplifies the aggregation of data from multiple sources or APIs. It may not be suitable for small applications with consistent data with REST usually focuses on standard client-server communication.
Overall, while deciding between GraphQL or REST API, it is important to consider your specific needs and weighs the pros and cons of each technology before making a decision.