REST has long been the go-to web service for front-end developers, but recently GraphQL has exploded in popularity. Now there’s another great choice for developers for implementing APIs – the Facebook created, open source GraphQL specification.
Facebook has been using GraphQL APIs for almost 6 years now in most components of the Facebook and Instagram apps and websites. And since it’s open source announcement in 2015, a large number of industries, from tech giants to lean startups, have also been using this specification for creating web services. Here are 7 reasons why you should also give GraphQL a try for building your APIs.
#1. GraphQL is Protocol agnostic
Both REST and GraphQL are specifications for building and consuming APIs and can be operated over HTTP. However, GraphQL is protocol agnostic. What this means is that it does not depend on anything HTTP. We don’t use HTTP methods or HTTP response codes with GraphQL, except for using it as a channel for GraphQL communication.
#2. GraphQL allows Data Fetching
GraphQL APIs allow data fetching. This data fetching feature is what makes it better as compared to REST, as you have only one endpoint to access data on a server. Whereas in a typical REST API, you may have to make requests to multiple endpoints to fetch or retrieve data from a server.
#3. GraphQL eliminates Overfetching and Underfetching
As mentioned earlier, the GraphQL server is a single endpoint that handles all the client requests, and it can give the clients the power to customize those requests at any time. Clients can ask for multiple resources in the same request and they can customize the fields needed from all of them. This way, clients can be in control of the data they fetch and they can easily avoid the problems of over-fetching and under-fetching. With GraphQL, clients and servers are independent which means they can be changed without affecting each other.
#4. Openness, Flexibility, and Power
GraphQL APIs solves the data loading problem with its three attributes. First, GraphQL is an open specification rather than a software. You can use GraphQL to serve many different needs at once. Secondly, GraphQL is flexible enough not to be tied to any particular programming language, database or hosting environment. Third GraphQL brings in power and performance and reduces code complexity by using declarative queries instead of writing code.
#5. Request and response are directly related
In RESTful APIs, the language we use for the request is different than the language we use for the response. However, in the case of GraphQL APIs, the language used for the request is directly related to the language used for the response. Since we use a similar language to communicate between clients and servers, debugging problems become easier. With GraphQL APIs queries mirroring the shape of their response, any deviations can be detected, and these deviations would point us to the exact query fields that are not resolving correctly.
#6. GraphQL features declarative data communication
GraphQL pays major attention towards improving the DI/DX. The developer experience is as important as the user experience, maybe more. When it comes to data communication, we need to give developers a declarative language for communicating an application’s data requirements.
GraphQL acts as a simple query language that allows developers to ask for the data required by their applications in a simple, natural, and declarative way that mirrors the way they use that data in their applications. That’s why frontend application developers love GraphQL.
#7. Open source ecosystem and a fabulous community
GraphQL has evolved in leaps and bounds from when it was open sourced. The only tooling available for developers to use GraphQL was the graphql-js reference implementation, when it came out first. Now, reference implementations of the GraphQL specification are available in various languages with multiple GraphQL clients. In addition, you also have multiple tools such as Prisma, GraphQL Faker, GraphQL Playground, graphql-config etc to build GraphQL APIs.
The GraphQL community is growing rapidly. Entire conferences are exclusively dedicated to GraphQL, GraphQL Europe, GraphQL Day and GraphQL Summit to name a few.
If you want to learn GraphQL, here a few resources to help you get your feet off the ground quickly.
Learning GraphQL and Relay
Hands-on GraphQL for Better RESTful Web Services [Video]
Learning GraphQL with React and Relay [Video]
5 web development tools will matter in 2018
What RESTful APIs can do for Cloud, IoT, social media and other emerging technologies