Currently, REST is the most widely used standard when it comes to configuring an API. However, a new query language, GraphQL, has emerged, designed to eliminate structural flaws in interfaces and simplify certain tasks. It is a technology that could change the way web applications are programmed and developed.
REST and GraphQL can be defined as two, different approaches to creating HTTP-based APIs. In 2012, Facebook tried to solve the performance problems of its mobile applications. The company needed to reduce the amount of data sent in API requests, and the classic interface did not allow them to do so. As a result, Facebook created GraphQL (QL for Query Language), a query and data manipulation language, which later began to be made publicly available in open source. Since then, developers have increasingly used GraphQL queries as one of their favorite technology sets for creating web services. What exactly has made GraphQL so popular?
GraphQL tool in practice
The GraphQL API is a data retrieval language that allows clients to declaratively describe their data requirements using a JSON-like format. An important feature of GraphQL is also its database independence. While typical REST APIs require loading from multiple URLs, GraphQL API implementations allow you to get all the data your application wants in a single request. One of the most common problems with REST APIs is having too many endpoints to access the information. With the GraphQL implementation, there is only one endpoint, so you don’t have to send multiple requests to retrieve different information about an object. Thus, applications using GraphQL can run fast even with slow mobile network connections.
Will GraphQL replace the REST API?
Mobile applications, or IoT systems, are examples of complex modern client-side systems that communicate using multiple back-end resources for rapid response. Not only do they provide fast communication, but they are constantly changing based on user requirements. These systems need an API that is flexible, efficient and allows scalability. The GraphQL implementation is therefore currently the best solution to meet this requirement. It offers the ability to create queries and a data retrieval model that is client-oriented, which in turn speeds up application performance.
Of course, GraphQL is not intended to compete with REST. It provides an alternative for better request targeting and reducing the amount of information that can pass between the client and server during query execution. What mainly distinguishes GraphQL APIs from REST is the pattern in which data is sent to the client. GraphQL separates the front-end from the back-end and eliminates excessive data retrieval. In the REST architecture, the client sends an HTTP request, and the needed data is returned as a response of HTTP code. GraphQL makes the needed data available to all parties (client and server) using fewer resources than in traditional REST, which is why it works well mainly in mobile applications.
When to choose REST?
GraphQL will not work in every case. It is not recommended to use it for simple applications. This is because it increases the complexity of the project unnecessarily due to the presence of such elements as types, queries, mutations, and resolvers. This is especially important from a maintenance point of view. In REST, you can check the status of the response to find out whether the request was successful, there was a server error or the resource was not found. When there is an error in GraphQL syntax, the developer will have to analyze the delivered message to find out if the error actually occurs, and different errors may have slightly different formats. Of course, some libraries, such as Apollo, help with error handling, but it’s still not as simple as in the REST API.
If you are planning to build a web application, it is worth using the services of an experienced agency that will suggest the best solution for developing the source code of your project. At Da Vinci Studio, we will be happy to undertake the implementation of your vision from A to Z. We guarantee that our team of developers will apply the right solutions to the expected results.