GraphQL vs. REST API

In previous time, whenever we wanted to build an API for our system or the server, we had to use the REST APIs system to build it, which was a standard for designing all kinds of web APIs. REST has always been the first choice of many developers, and has also regarded as the classical for sending data over HTTP. But as the time changes, a trend also changes, so does it happen with the REST APIs. The trend of REST APIs is changing since GraphQL gained its popularity and increased its reach.

GraphQL has proved to be a new and revolutionary technology that provides a systematic and hierarchical approach to developing web APIs. By this, GraphQL is on its way to replace the legacy of REST APIs. GraphQL can be seen as an alternative to REST APIs.

Before moving forward and drawing a comparison between GraphQL and REST APIs, let us firstly look in brief at What REST API is and What is GraphQL.

REST APIs

The full form of REST API is Representational State Transfer API. REST is the classical and standard way of designing and building a different type of Web APIs. REST APIs were so popular among many developers in the technology world because of its great core features like, a structured approach for accessing the resources and stateless servers. REST is defined as the set of constraints which is used for creating different web services. But the main issue with the REST APIs is that REST is not so flexible, which is the demand for changing the modern technology world. REST is not able to cope up with the rapidly changing requirements and not able to fulfill all the requirements of the clients who can access them. Therefore, we needed an alternative for traditional REST APIs alongside with the REST APIs.

GraphQL

GraphQL was invented by Facebook by a group of engineers to provide more flexibility for developing the APIs and more efficiency to our APIs. Till now, GraphQL has solved many problems of developers and inefficiencies of REST APIs which all developer has faced during working with the REST APIs.

Points to remember:

  • We should always remember that GraphQL is not any database, and there is no link between GraphQL and MySQL.
  • Do not consider GraphQL as an alternative for the SQL.
  • Also, do not consider GraphQL is a replacement for the traditional REST APIs. GraphQL should only be considered as an alternative, and that too only for REST APIs. You can use any or both of them as per your choice and as per your  system requirements.

Now, we have known basic concepts of both GraphQL and REST APIs. What they are used for and how modern technologies are relying on these APIs. We will now look at some significant differences between GraphQL and REST APIs according to the features provided and accordingly will draw a comparison between them.

Differences between GraphQL and REST APIs

GraphQL and REST APIs have some following significant differences according to their features: –

1. Endpoints: –

In the REST APIs, the URL we send over the network, or the server denotes a single resource. When we need to fetch data from multiple resources in REST APIs, we need to request multiple endpoints, leading to multiple round trips for getting all the data we have requested for.

But, in GraphQL, you don’t have such kinds of multiple endpoints. You can fetch data from multiple resources in just one request from the server and with a single endpoint. GraphQL saves you from multiple round trips over the network to get data from multiple resources, and save you time.

2. Precise and Accurate data: –

When we request REST APIs, we get results related to our query, and we also get some extra data in our results. REST APIs usually have over-fetching or under-fetching of data for what we have asked in our query. This makes data less precise and accurate, which we are getting through REST APIs. Sometimes, the data is so over-fetched that the client also gets confused about what data he has requested in his query.

But, in GraphQL, you will not find such problems. GraphQL is free from any over-fetching or under-fetching of data. The client gets the data that he has asked in his query. This makes data very precise, specific and accurate in GraphQL APIs. Clients don’t have to look for their actual data in the result retrieved in GraphQL. This property of GraphQL makes it more efficient than REST APIs.

3. Architecture: –

The traditional REST APIs follow server-driven architecture, making it more reliable on the server, which is connected on. In contrast, GraphQL follows client-driven architecture, making it more reliable for clients and making it more efficient than the previous one.

4. Predictability of data: –

When we launch a query through REST APIs, we don’t aware of the data we will get in the results. The data is unpredictable in terms of the result provided by REST APIs.

But, in GraphQL, you can predict what kind of data you will get through the query you have executed in GraphQL. The data we will get is predictable in terms of the result provided by GraphQL.

5. Ability to learn: –

In terms of ability to learn, GraphQL is slightly complicated in learning, whereas REST APIs are easy to learn compared with GraphQL.

6. Community: –

The popularity of GraphQL is growing day by day, and its community is increasing rapidly with the time, whereas REST APIs already have a vast community at the current time.

 7. Caching system: –

GraphQL does not come up with any built-in caching system. But you can add a caching system by yourself in GraphQL. GraphQL does not provide you cache over any networks, whereas REST APIs already come up with a built-in caching system, and it will provide you cache over any network.

8. Development speed: –

In terms of developmental speed, REST APIs are slower as compared with GraphQL. GraphQL has a very high development speed, whereas REST APIs have a prolonged development speed.

9. Error-handling: –

Error-handling becomes very difficult in GraphQL. We have to add an extra monitoring system to our server for error-handling in GraphQL. Whereas in REST APIs, it is effortless to deal with the errors. Error-handling is very simple in REST APIs because of its rich features provided by REST.

Where is REST APIs better?

REST APIs are better in terms of providing you a built-in caching mechanism where GraphQL lacks. REST APIs are easy to learn and implement them in your system. REST APIs provide you some rich features which will help in the error-handling. REST APIs already have a pervasive community that will help you by providing an environment where you can learn and grow rapidly.

Where is GraphQL better?

GraphQL will provide you a single endpoint for your request from multiple resources. GraphQL will provide you exact and accurate data. It is compatible with dealing with many complicated queries. The data provided in the result of queries we have executed in GraphQL is very predictable. Since GraphQL is free from any over-fetching or under-fetching problem, the result provided in GraphQL is very efficient. GraphQL also has a very high developmental speed.

Conclusion: From the above comparison between GraphQL and REST APIs, we can conclude that both have unique features. REST APIs have traditional ways and vast community, whereas we can call GraphQL as APIs of the future. In the end, it’s only your choice that with which one you are comfortable and which one supports your program better.

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