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Apr 22, 2024

REST vs. GraphQL

REST (Representational State Transfer) and GraphQL are two different methods used to build APIs. While REST has been the traditional method of building APIs for the web, GraphQL is relatively new and has been growing in popularity due to its unique features.

REST is an architectural style that relies on HTTP protocol methods to create, read, update, and delete data. It follows a resource-oriented approach, meaning every object is a resource and these resources are addressed using URLs. To fetch related data in REST, you often have to make multiple round trips to the server, each time requesting a different resource. This can lead to over-fetching and under-fetching of data - you might get more or less data than you actually need.

On the other hand, GraphQL is a query language for APIs and a runtime for executing those queries. One of the biggest advantages of GraphQL is that it allows the client to specify exactly what data it needs, which reduces the amount of data that's transferred over the network. This is a significant improvement over REST APIs, where the server defines what data is sent for specific paths. GraphQL allows you to get all the related data you need in a single request, which is more efficient in terms of network usage.

Another difference lies in the error handling. In REST, each endpoint can return a different status code to represent different types of errors. In GraphQL, you'll get a 200 OK status for every request, even if there are errors.

If your application needs to be highly performant and network efficiency is a priority, or if the data requirements of your clients are varied and change frequently, GraphQL would be a good choice. It's also beneficial if you're developing a mobile application or any other client where bandwidth is crucial.

On the other hand, if you're building a simpler application or if your server will only have one client that doesn't require a lot of flexibility in terms of data requirements, a REST API might be more suitable. It's also worth considering that REST has been around for a longer time, so there are more tools, middleware, and resources available to help you build and maintain your API.

In conclusion, both REST and GraphQL have their advantages and use cases. Your choice should be driven by the specific requirements of your application, as well as the preferences and expertise of your development team.