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What is GraphQL?

What is GraphQL

We live in a modern technological world. The trick to compete with fast-moving times is to learn new stuff before it gets outdated. Therefore, it is the perfect time for you to learn about What is GraphQL, and how can you use it? The same question keeps circling around in your mind. Stay tuned, and you’ll never have to ask the same question again.  

So What is GraphQL in a Nutshell?

GraphQL is an open-source query language and a server-side runtime for Application Programming Interface (APIs) that fulfills queries with existing data. GraphQL is designed to make APIs better, faster, and more developer-friendly. 

Basically, what GraphQL does is load data from server to client. It is one of the ways to get data from an API in your application.

Unlike other query languages (Such as SQL), GraphQL is not used to store any specific data. Instead, GraphQL is used to fetch data from multiple sources.

History of GraphQL

Back in 2012, Facebook was developing new sections for their IoS and Android applications. At the time of development, they were facing issues with the REST APIs. They needed a powerful API to describe all of Facebook and simple enough to be learned by developers. So they created GraphQL. 

GraphQL was developed in 2012 and was released publically in 2015. In 2018, Facebook shifted it to the newly created GraphQL foundation by Linux. Since then, GraphQL has been proven incredibly effective for modern-day web and mobile applications. With the help of a simple GraphQL query, you can fetch data from the GraphQL database. 

Now you know what GraphQL is and why it was developed, let’s move to some of the significant advantages of GraphQL.

Advantages of GraphQL

GraphQL is faster and more reliable compared to REST. There are many advantages of using GraphQL compared to REST APIs. Some of the major advantages of GraphQL are as follows:

1. Best Fit For Microservices And Complex Systems

GraphQL lets you integrate multiple systems with it and unifies them to hide their complexity. GraphQL offers the benefit of fetching data from the server and delivering it in GraphQL format. This is helpful when dealing with third-party APIs or legacy systems that are huge and difficult to manage. 

GraphQL also benefits in migrating from monolithic applications to microservice architecture. It helps in managing communication between multiple microservices by merging them into a single GraphQL schema. It is helpful in using microservices architecture such as Headless CMS.

2. GraphQL Is Faster

GraphQL is way faster than any other APIs. This is because it lets you cut down your query to specify fields you want. So the processing of queries does not require much time.

3. No Over Fetching And Under Fetching

The main advantage of GraphQL over REST is that REST either contains additional data or sometimes lacks data. This creates the need for another request. Whereas, GraphQL solves this issue by fetching exact data in a single request.

4. Define Data Shape

When you request a GraphQL query from the server, it returns a simple, organized, secure response. So, you can write specific queries as per your requirements. This is what makes GraphQL easy to learn and simple to use.

5. Code Sharing

GraphQL offers you the benefit of sharing fields in multiple queries at a higher component level. This advantage of GraphQL is known as fragments. It allows you to get different data through the same schema field. 

6. Autogenerating Documentations

GraphQL keeps the documentation in sync with all the API changes. Any changes done in fields, types, or queries are directly reflected in the documentation. As a result, developers have to spend less time managing and updating the documentation. 

7. No Requirement Of Versioning

Developers need to keep the older version of API until they make the transition to a newer version. However, in the case of GraphQL, there is no requirement for versioning as it deprecates the APIs on the field levels. By using a single version, GraphQl API helps in continuous access to new features and easier code management. 

8. Detailed Error Tracking

Whenever there is an error while executing a GraphQL query, the backend will send a detailed error tracking message. This message will refer to the exact part of the query, including all the resolvers of the issue. Besides, you can choose the representation of error such as plain text, error code, or stack trace.

Apart from this, there are several other advantages of GraphQL, such as rapid prototyping, personalized requests, protocols, permissions, and much more.

GraphQL VS REST

As GraphQL and REST both are specifications for consuming APIs, they have much in common. Both retrieve data by sending queries over HTTP. At the same time, endpoints of REST are similar to the fields of GraphQL. 

However, there is still a difference between GraphQL and REST. As REST is made up of files, GraphQL is made up of graphs. The major difference between GraphQL and REST is how they assist developers in building and using APIs. 

Here is the list of significant differences between REST and GraphQL.

GraphQL VS REST
GraphQLREST
ArchitectureClient driven Server driven
Organized Through Schema & type systemEndpoints
Data FetchingAccurate data with a single API call. Fixed data with multiple API calls.
Performance Fast Comparatively slower 
OperationsQuery Subscription
Mutation
CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete)
Development SpeedFastSlow
Auto DocumentationYes No
Stability High Comparatively lower
File UploadingNo Yes
Learning Difficulty ModerateLow
Community Fast-growingLarge
Use casesFor microservices & Complex appsFor simple apps

The above-listed difference does not mean that REST is not efficient or GraphQL is always better than REST. After all, REST has been a standard API for years. However, GraphQL is a buzzword in the industry as it overcomes all the limitations of REST.

Conclusion

We are sure you’ll now have a clear idea about what GraphQL is. It is nothing but a server runtime and a query language for APIs. The adoption of GraphQL has increased in recent years, and obviously that it’s not going anywhere soon.

The term may sound technical and fancy as Facebook develops it, but its implementation is reasonably practical. Whether you are using GraphQL or not, it’s the right time to familiarize yourself with it. As more and more companies are choosing it and software development projects are carried out using GraphQL. 

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