Restful vs. GraphQL

GraphQL and REST are two popular APIs for building scalable, modern applications. They help developers respond to user requests with relevant data fetching, but they do so differently. Understanding the pros and cons of each technology can help you choose the right one for your project. In this article, we’ll explore the main differences between GraphQL and REST APIs to see which is suitable for your next project, and your development team can help with the backend and frontend requirements. We will look at client and server-side usages and how they are used in the Web within URLs.

Rest vs GraphQL
Rest vs GraphQL

What is a REST API?

REST is an acronym that stands for “Representational State Transfer.” It is an architecture that’s been used to build and design online services since the ‘90s. Using REST APIs over HTTP methods like GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE to communicate with different parts of an application.

When a user accesses the API, their request is routed to one of these functions, which returns data in the requested format. This format can be JSON, XML, or another variant, depending on the needs of the application.

REST APIs are language-agnostic and can be accessed from any programming language. They also use standard Internet protocols, so they can be integrated with other applications very easily. On top of that, REST APIs are easy to maintain and scale, making them a great option for many projects. Most open-source projects use RestFul APIs as well as app development and architectural tools. Many Restful APIs can be triggered by a query string request.

What is a GraphQL API?

GraphQL is a data querying language that was developed by Facebook in 2012. Its main goal was to simplify the communication between front-end and back-end developers and create an efficient and flexible data architecture for scalable applications. GraphQL APIs work similarly to REST APIs, with one major difference:

The clients need to know the exact structure of the data, meaning they have to know what fields the API will return and in which order. This is required so the client can load only the data it needs. If a client asks for data that isn’t available, the GraphQL server will respond with a “not found” error. Graphql is more server driven.

Graphql allows developers to be more flexible in their usage. GraphQL uses strongly-typed queries. Given a query, tooling can ensure that the query is both syntactically correct and valid within the GraphQL type system before execution. GraphQL is designed to make APIs fast, flexible, and developer-friendly. A GraphQL query will fetch data like a GET command in REST. And likewise for a POST command in REST.

The performance of GraphQL queries is more efficient and has a faster response time when making requests. This is an excellent example of exactly why Facebook made the call to use graphql vs. rest when it developed its schema definition for endpoints.

How are GraphQL and REST different?

The main difference between REST and GraphQL is how they request data from the server. With REST, clients specify the data that they want to receive. GraphQL clients specify the data they want to receive, and the GraphQL server determines the best way to provide it.

Using REST, clients can receive whatever data they request. Using GraphQL, clients can only request the data specified in the schema. The rest of the data is hidden from the client, which is an advantage for security, but a disadvantage for scalability. REST APIs are language-agnostic and can be accessed using any programming language.

Using GraphQL, clients need to know the exact data structure, meaning they must know what fields the API will return and in which order, but it can be retrieved from the server in one request.

Facebook developed GraphQL as a server-side application layer technology to execute queries with existing data.Conventional architecture is regarded as the standard for designing APIs
Client-driven architecture.Server-side architecture
GraphQL Schema StitchingAutomatic caching
An exposed service’s full capabilities are provided via a single endpoint over HTTP using a single request.Support multiple versioning
No versioningResponse output in XML, JSON.
graphql vs rest

Final words

While both technologies are useful for building scalable applications, GraphQL is a better fit for teams that are building large projects, primarily if they use a single codebase. In this case, you’re better off choosing a GraphQL API because the strict structure and a set of constraints help you avoid any inconsistencies between the back-end and the front-end code. On the other hand, if you are building an application with a small team and want to keep things simple, a REST API is a better option. With REST, it’s easier to plug new features into the system without causing chaos among the team. We did not talk about web services in this article which is the main component in windows specific endpoints. More information about Graphql vs. web services can be found here.

Rest vs GraphQL
Rest vs GraphQL


  • Brent W. Peterson

    Who is Brent Peterson? Brent is a serial entrepreneur and marketing professional with a passion for running. He co-founded Wagento and has a new adventure called ContentBasis. Brent is the host of the podcast Talk Commerce. He has run 25 marathons and one Ironman race. Brent has been married for 29 years. He was born in Montana, and attended the University of Minnesota and Birmingham University without ever getting his degree.

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