Sunday, July 21, 2024

REST API vs GraphQL API: Choosing an API Which You Need

REST API vs. GraphQL APIs: A Developer Showdown

APIs power modern online services by connecting software components and transferring data across the internet. API technologies like SOAP, REST, and GraphQL facilitate software development by integrating third-party data and services. APIs allow firms to securely communicate data and provide services to workers, business partners, and users.

Recent disputes have focused on REST (representational state transfer) and GraphQL, despite the various APIs. Both have several advantages and are used in networking projects worldwide. Data traffic management differs greatly between them. IBM compare REST and GraphQL APIs and explain how corporations may optimise their networks.

Explain REST and GraphQL APIs

Comparing REST and GraphQL APIs requires knowledge of each.


The early 2000s-developed REST architecture paradigm for networked hypermedia applications uses a stateless, client/server, cacheable communication protocol. RESTful APIs drive REST designs.

REST APIs address resources using URIs. REST APIs use endpoints to execute CRUD (“create,” “read,” “update,” and “delete”) network resource activities. They shape and size client resources based on a media type or MIME type. Most formats are JSON and XML (occasionally HTML or plain text).

The server handles client requests for resources and returns all related data. HTTP response codes include “200 OK” for successful REST queries and “404 Not Found” for missing resources.


In 2012, Facebook created GraphQL, a query language and API runtime that became open source in 2015.

API schema published in GraphQL schema definition language defines GraphQL. Each schema lists data types and associations the user may query or alter. The resolver backs each schema field. The resolver converts GraphQL queries, modifications, and subscriptions into data and fetches it from databases, cloud services, and other sources. Resolvers specify data formats and let the system combine data from several sources.

Instead of utilising several endpoints to acquire data and conduct network operations like REST, GraphQL exposes data models by using a single endpoint for all GraphQL queries. Using resource attributes and resource references, the API gets the client all the data they need from a single query to the GraphQL server.

GraphQL and REST APIs are resource-based data exchanges that employ HTTP methods like PUT and GET to limit client actions. However, important contrasts explain why GraphQL has grown and why RESTful systems have endured.


GraphQL APIs are typically considered an enhancement over RESTful settings due to their ability to promote front-end-back-end team cooperation. An organization’s API journey should continue with GraphQL, which solves REST difficulties.

REST was the norm for API designs, and many developers and architects still use RESTful settings to manage IT networks. Understanding the differences is crucial to any IT management plan.

REST and GraphQL APIs handle differently:

Data retrieval

REST uses many endpoints and stateless interactions to handle each API request as a new query, so clients obtain all resource data. Over-fetching occurs when a client only wants a portion of the data. To make up for under-fetching, a RESTful system frequently requires clients query each resource individually if they need data from numerous resources. Single-endpoint GraphQL APIs eliminate over- and under-fetching by providing clients with an accurate, full data response in one round trip from a single request.


Teams must version APIs to adjust data structures and avoid end-user errors and service outages in a REST architecture. Developers must establish a new endpoint for every update, producing several API versions and complicating maintenance. GraphQL eliminates versioning since clients may express data needs via queries. Clients without need for new server fields are unaffected. Clients may request deprecated fields until queries are updated.

Error handling

HTTP status codes indicate request success or failure in REST APIs. Each status code has a purpose. A successful HTTP request returns 200, whereas a client error returns 400 and a server error returns 500.

This status reporting method sounds simpler, however HTTP status codes are typically more valuable to online users than APIs, particularly for mistakes. REST does not specify errors, therefore API failures may display as transport problems or not at all with the status code. This may compel staff to study status documentation to understand faults and how infrastructure communicates failures.

Because HTTP status codes don’t transmit problems (excluding transport faults), GraphQL APIs return 200 OK for every request. The system sends faults in the response body with the data, so clients must interpret it to determine whether the request was successful.

However, GraphQL specifies errors, making API problems easier to identify from transport failures. The response body’s “errors” item describes errors, making GraphQL APIs easier to develop upon.

REST lacks built-in functionality for real-time data changes. Long-polling and server-sent events are required for real-time functionality, which might complicate a programme.

Subscriptions provide real-time changes in GraphQL. Subscriptions enable the server to notify clients when events occur by maintaining a continuous connection.

Environment and tools

Developers have several tools, libraries, and frameworks in the REST environment. Teams must browse several endpoints and learn each API’s norms and practices while using REST APIs.

GraphQL APIs are young, but the ecosystem has evolved greatly since their inception, with several server and client development tools and modules. GraphiQL and GraphQL Playground are powerful in-browser IDEs for discovering and testing GraphQL APIs. GraphQL also supports code generation, simplifying client-side development.


REST APIs use eTags and last-modified headers to cache API requests. While effective, some caching solutions are difficult to implement and may not be suited for all use situations.

Dynamic queries make GraphQL APIs harder to cache. Persisted queries, response caching, and server-side caching may alleviate these issues and simplify GraphQL caching.

When to utilise GraphQL and REST APIs

REST and GraphQL APIs are distinct tools for various goals, not better.

For public-facing e-commerce sites like Shopify and GitHub, REST is easy to deploy and provides a simple, cacheable communication protocol with strict access constraints. Due to under- and over-fetching issues, REST APIs are ideal for:

  • Businesses with simpler data profiles and smaller applications
  • Businesses without complicated data queries
  • Businesses where most customers utilise data and processes similarly

GraphQL APIs increase system efficiency and developer ease-of-use by providing flexible, fast data fetching. This makes GraphQL ideal for APIs in complicated setups with quickly changing front-end needs. This includes:

  • Business with limited bandwidth wants to restrict calls and answers
  • Companies who seek to aggregate data at one endpoint
  • Businesses with diverse client requirements

Though they employ distinct methods, GraphQL and REST APIs may improve network scalability and server speed.

Control your API environment using IBM API Connect

Whether you use REST or GraphQL APIs or a mix of both your business can benefit from a wide range of applications, including JavaScript implementations and integration with microservices and serverless architectures. Use both API types to optimise your IT infrastructure with IBM API Connect.

IBM API Connect lets you establish, manage, protect, socialise, and monetise APIs and encourage digital transformation in data centres and clouds. This lets organisations and consumers power digital applications and innovate in real time.

API Connect helps organisations stay ahead in API management, which will be crucial in a computing ecosystem that will get bigger, more complicated, and more competitive.

Thota nithya
Thota nithya
Thota Nithya has been writing Cloud Computing articles for govindhtech from APR 2023. She was a science graduate. She was an enthusiast of cloud computing.

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