GraphQL and REST are API architectural styles used to communicate with web services, but they differ significantly in managing requests, responses, and data retrieval. In this post, we will compare GraphQL and REST API.
Differences between GraphQL and REST
REST is based on a fixed set of endpoints representing resources, whereas GraphQL allows clients to request specific data structures in a flexible manner using a single endpoint. The choice between the two depends on the specific requirements of your application and the trade-offs you are willing to make in terms of complexity and control.
|Each endpoint in a RESTful API represents a specific resource, and data is retrieved from the server by performing HTTP requests to these endpoints. Endpoints are frequently used to obtain relevant resources or to perform certain activities.
1. endpoint /services/data/v57.0/account will give account data.
2. endpoint /services/data/v57.0/Contact will give contact data.
|Clients can use GraphQL to request specific data via a single HTTP endpoint. The client specifies the data structure it requires, and the server returns only the desired data in JSON format.
This enables more efficient data retrieval and avoids data over-fetching and under-fetching.
Example – /services/data/v57.0/graphql will give account/contact data based on payload
|In a REST API, each resource normally has its own endpoint (URL). For example, to get a user’s profile and posts, you may utilise endpoints like /users/userId and /users/userId/posts.
|GraphQL handles all data queries and changes through a single endpoint, usually /graphql. Through the GraphQL query, the client can specify the exact structure of the data it requires.
|REST APIs typically return fixed data structures that are determined by the server. Clients must parse the response and extract the necessary data.
|GraphQL answer formats are flexible and adhere to the structure given in the client’s query. Clients receive exactly the data they requested, and the answer is a JSON object containing key-value pairs corresponding to the query’s fields.
|Versioning is frequently required for REST APIs to handle changes, especially when backward compatibility is an issue. This can result in various endpoint versions for different clients.
|Versioning is less of a concern in GraphQL because clients may describe their data requirements directly in the query. Existing queries are unaffected by the addition of new fields.
|Handling relationships between resources in RESTful APIs frequently entails sending several requests to different endpoints to obtain related data.
|Clients can express complicated relationships and nested data requirements in a single query with GraphQL, avoiding the need for numerous requests.
|The server determines the structure of the API with REST, and changes may necessitate changes on both the server and client sides.
|GraphQL allows for a more flexible development approach because clients can request only the data they require, avoiding the need for frequent API modifications.
Similarity in GraphQL and REST
While GraphQL and REST differ significantly, they also have certain similarities. Here are a few points where they are similar:
GraphQL and REST APIs share similarities in their usage of HTTP methods for communication. Both make use of HTTP methods to specify the sort of operation being performed on a resource.
While the underlying HTTP methods are similar, the manner these ways are used and the level of granularity with which operations can be specified can differ between GraphQL and REST. GraphQL allows customers to describe exactly what data they require or changes they wish to make in a single query, potentially resulting in more efficient and personalised requests. REST APIs, on the other hand, frequently necessitate several calls to distinct endpoints to get comparable degrees of granularity.
Both GraphQL and REST APIs are stateless, which means that each request from the client to the server must include all of the information required to interpret and fulfil the request. This promotes scalability while also simplifying the architecture.
While the statelessness principle is shared by both GraphQL and REST, there are differences in how they manage data retrieval and interaction. The ability of GraphQL to request precisely the required data in a single query might boost the benefits of statelessness by decreasing data over-fetching and under-fetching. The implementation of statelessness, on the other hand, remains a core notion in both techniques, adding to its scalability, performance, and simplicity.
GraphQL and REST APIs can both employ comparable security techniques like authentication (using tokens, API keys, and so on) and authorization (ensuring the user has the appropriate permissions).
Caching methods can help both GraphQL and REST APIs increase performance. Clients can reduce unnecessary requests by using caching technologies such as Response Caching, Client-Side Caching, ETags, Last-Modified headers, and Cache-Control directives.
Error responses are returned by both GraphQL and REST APIs to indicate problems with the request or processing. Status codes and error messages are common components of error responses.
Both GraphQL and REST rely on data exchange exchanges between clients and servers. While the specifics of these exchanges vary, the important principle of making requests and receiving responses is the same.
When we should use GraphQL and REST?
The choice between GraphQL and REST is influenced by a number of factors, including the type of our application, the specific needs of the project, and the trade-offs we are willing to make. Here’s a general guideline for when to use GraphQL or REST:
Use GraphQL when:
1. Flexible Data Requirements:
If the application requires clients to request precise sets of data that may differ significantly from one request to the next, GraphQL’s ability to allow customers to specify exactly what data they desire can be useful.
2. Over-Fetching and Under-Fetching
If you want to minimize the over-fetching and under-fetching of data. GraphQL’s fine-grained queries can enable accurate adapt replies to client demands in order to reduce over- and under-fetching.
3. Multiple Data Sources
When our app needs to aggregate data from different sources or services, GraphQL can streamline this process by allowing us to fetch data from multiple places in a single query.
4. Mobile and Single-Page Applications
GraphQL can be very helpful for mobile apps and single-page applications, where effective data retrieval and fewer network requests are crucial for optimal performance.
Use REST when
1. Standardization and Familiarity
Staying with REST could simplify development if your team and ecosystem are more familiar with its principles and already have tools and libraries that are compatible with it.
2. Caching and Caching Invalidation
REST’s well-defined endpoints and cache-control headers can be advantageous if our application largely relies on caching and cache invalidation techniques.
3. Existing APIs
It can make sense to stick with REST in order to retain compatibility if we’re interacting with or integrating with already-existing RESTful APIs.
4. Public APIs
For public APIs where backward compatibility is critical. REST’s versioning capabilities might be useful in introducing updates without affecting existing clients for public APIs.
If the data requirements for our application are simple and do not involve complex relationships or varied data needs. REST’s more standardized approach should be sufficient.
In conclusion, GraphQL offers a more adaptable and effective method of requesting and receiving data via APIs than conventional RESTful methods. The specific use case and project need eventually determine which of GraphQL and REST should be used.