API architecture is always evolving, which essentially means that there is never a one ruling query language.The usage of REST APIs has been a hot topic this year. With the emergence of GraphQL, REST APIs have become less desirable for developers who love the flexibility and instant connectivity.

Although REST and GraphQL have similar built-in elements, there are still some aspects that make one better than the other.

GraphQL is a revolutionary new way of acquiring data from the server through a single endpoint that requires only one specified request. This offers a lot of flexibility as compared to REST where you have to work with rigid endpoints that cannot be modified. So, GraphQL offers transformative technology that can increase optimization and enhanced collaboration that was restrictive with REST APIs. 

We know that API technology can easily become obsolete and that GraphQL has a lot of elements similar to REST. So will REST diminish? or is it dead already? 

This post seeks to find out where REST stands in the API architecture by looking at the differences and similarities between REST and GraphQL.

What is REST?

REST is an API that represents an array of functions for developers. These functions perform specific requests and receive responses in return for those requests through HTTP protocol. These protocols can include POST and GET.

In other words, REST APIs work in an environment where the server is responsible for defining a specific array of resources that can be requested by a client. These resources are uniquely defined by URLs. In addition, REST API’s work through HTTP which makes them easy to use for any programming language.

One of the most common examples of REST API is the World Wide Web; a distributed web system that creates a hypertext-driven interface using REST API Protocol Architecture.

Here are some real-world examples of REST APIs

What is GraphQL?

GraphQL is relatively new as compared to REST. It is a query language designed for ad-hoc query manipulation. Unlike REST, it enables clients to specify the outlook or the structure of the data that is required, and in response to that query, the server sends data with the exact same structure. This removes the common issue of over-fetching and under-fetching of data.

As compared to REST, it is far more flexible and offers numerous benefits that outshine the features of REST APIs. Just like REST, GraphQL can be developed in various programming languages including PHP, #C, Java, Python, Javascript, and Ruby. 

Why is REST diminishing and how GraphQL fits the bill

Is there something wrong with REST? What exactly is missing in REST? And why GraphQL is a better option?

The problem with REST is simple: it is not flexible enough to fulfill the quickly changing client requirements. With REST APIs, you need to make different requests to different servers in order to fetch the required data. In the process, you are over-fetching as well; the endpoints fetch additional information not required by the client.

To make it more clear: with REST, there are multiple endpoints involved in the process. GraphQL does not require multiple trips to fetch data. So, therefore, with REST, you have to make multiple round trips to fetch the required data and for that, you need to create new parameters that can be hard to manage. GraphQL eliminates this hassle and fetches all data with a single trip to the server. 

REST and GraphQL
REST and GraphQL

Moreover, GraphQL reduces the client’s’ dependency on various servers. With GraphQL, the client uses a request code or language that reduces the need for reshaping or resizing the data, which separates the client from the server. This allows you to maintain clients and servers separately.  

Furthermore, in REST APIs, there is no language defined to control data that is returned from the server. With GraphQL, the client requirements are specified through a declarative code or a requested language. This defines what data is required and how it can be made available. This streamlines the data-fetching process and eliminates the multiple server visits that are part of the process with REST.

REST and GraphQL
REST and GraphQL

Similarities and Differences between REST and GraphQL

We have outlined the primary similarities and differences below to help you understand the divide between the two; REST and GraphQL.

Similarities

  • Both work through resources with specified IDs.
  • The data-fetching process can be done through HTTP GET with specified URLs.
  • Both are capable of returning JSON data in response to a client request.
  • They both represent the entry points or entry channels into the data.
  • Both can differentiate the API requests for data. For example, they can recognize requests for reading and writing data.

Differences

  • In REST API, the endpoint is the identity of the object. In GraphQL the server and client are separate.
  • In GraphQL there is no need for versioning. With REST APIs, versioning leads to code redundancy.
  • In REST API, you have to make multiple requests to fetch data. GraphQL fetches data through a single request.
  • In REST API, the HTTP headers show the error response and its status. In GraphQL, the error message is delivered to the client with a status response.
  • REST API is implemented through HTTP that automatically implements caching. GraphicQL does not have a caching mechanism.

Conclusion

REST is a network-based architectural concept that doesn’t really have any specifications or tools. In other words; it doesn’t care if you use HTTP or AMQP. It simply decouples APIs from the client.

GraphQL, on the other hand, is a query language designed to perform with a set of tools and specifications. It operates through a single endpoint through HTTP to deliver enhanced performance. It is much more flexible and efficient in terms data-fetching as compared to REST.

Utilizing interface protocols is one of the primary features of REST. It leverages caching, content-types and status codes from within HTTP, whereas GraphQL creates original conventions.

In addition, another primary feature for REST is the hypermedia controls. So, if you are utilizing an API that doesn’t function around hypermedia controls, then GraphQL would make more sense.

Now…

Is REST really dead?

The simple answer is ‘No’, at least not yet. But many developers are quickly adopting GraphicQL because of its flexibility and clean process.Depending on your specific programming needs, REST could offer a flexible option as compared to GraphQL.

Get latest articles regarding software development and APIs directly to your inbox. Subscribe here.

or Learn more about software development here.

Enjoyed the article? Don't forget to share!