GraphQL: The Smooth Communication Enabler

GraphQL is a language that enables data communication between the client and the server. In simpler terms, the waiter that takes your order in a restaurant is GraphQL, the chef that prepares your order is the server, and you are the client. Just like a chef may not be able to perform the dual roles of a waiter and the chef, it is tedious for the server to cater to multiple requests from the client’s end. As long as the restaurant has just about a handful of customers, the dual-task is possible. But as soon as the customer count goes high, performing one task might also seem tedious. The client usually requires multiple resources from the server, and more often than not, the server may only be able to respond with a single source, which makes the job completion long. GraphQL enables the task to be completed with ease and quickly. Facebook is the developer of GraphQL. The platform receives around two million online users monthly. To cater to such larger API requests, it came up with an in-house query language that enables high speed and query customization. During one of its redesigning processes, it introduced the world to GraphQL. Moreover, some major league players like – Airbnb, AWS, GitHub, IBM, PayPal, Shopify, Pinterest, Intuit, Coursera, and Twitter also use this API.

More often than not, frontend and backend developers struggle to convey which data structure to fetch. Such struggle turns into a time-consuming task. Here is when GraphQL swoops in to save the day. It facilitates easy comprehension between frontend developer’s needs and backend developer’s task fulfillment.

Shortcomings of REST API

Representational State Transfer (REST) is an API that consists of a set of rules that enables the various programs to talk to each other, ultimately helping the interaction between the client and the server.

The problem with the REST API is that it increases round trips from the browser to the server. As a developer, we must always try to deliver products to the client that are highly optimized. More round trips result in more web page loading time, and chances are, you may lose potential customers. REST makes those round trips because it has multiple endpoints to get various data, while GraphQL overcomes this problem by using just one endpoint to get the same kind of data. Let’s understand this with the help of an example.

REST APIs for getting data of apples and a single apple will be as follows:

  • GET /apples – to get a list of all the records of apple collection, or
  • GET /apples/1 – to get the single record of apple having id as 1 from apple collection.

VS GraphQL approach to handle this is:

  • To get all apples

                  {
                       apples
                     {
                              color,
                               price,
                          quantity
                     }
               }

  • To get apple with id as one

                  {
                       apples(ID: 1) 
                     {
                              color,
                               price,
                          quantity
                     }
               }

Pros

Multiple Endpoint vs Single EndpointJust like we mentioned earlier, the most important advantage of using GraphQL is the speed of task completion as a result of a single trip to procure all the important information from the server to the client. REST API falls short in this genre since it requires several trips from one point to another to gather the needed information.

Cons

Uploading Files:GraphQL can not handle file uploading. There are ways to facilitate file uploading, but it is still a problem when working with GraphQL, and it takes a good amount of time to learn it because of the struggle that the developers face while switching from REST API to GraphQL.

Conclusion

Moving from an established and conventional technology to a new one is a bold step. As a web developer, you must prepare yourself for learning new skills because the IT world keeps changing, and every new moon brings with it a new technology. GraphQL has it all that it takes to become the next generation of API technology. Its newness shouldn’t stop you from indulging in it and creating revolutionary products. Feel free to ask any questions, if in a rut!

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