When building web APIs, developers have two main options: REST and GraphQL. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, and the choice between them depends on the specific requirements of your application. In this blog post, we will discuss the key differences between REST and GraphQL, and when it is best to prefer REST over GraphQL.
REST (Representational State Transfer) is an architectural style for building web services. It is based on the HTTP protocol, and it uses standard HTTP methods (such as GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE) to access and manipulate data. RESTful APIs are resource-based, meaning each endpoint represents a specific resource (such as a user or a product). The endpoints are accessed using URLs, and the data is exchanged in JSON or XML.
On the other hand, GraphQL is a query language and runtime for building APIs. It is also based on the HTTP protocol, but it uses a single endpoint and a unique query syntax to access and manipulate data. GraphQL allows the client to specify exactly what data it needs, and the server responds with only that data. This means that the client can make a single request to get all the data it needs, rather than making multiple requests to different endpoints.
When should you prefer REST over GraphQL?
- When you have a well-defined and stable schema: If your schema is well-defined, and it is not likely to change in the near future, then REST is the better choice. RESTful APIs have a clear structure and are easy to understand, so developers can quickly get up to speed with the API.
- When you need to support caching: RESTful APIs can be cached easily, which can improve the performance of your application. GraphQL, on the other hand, is less cache-friendly because it uses a single endpoint, and the client can request any data it needs.
- When you need to support multiple languages and platforms: RESTful APIs are widely supported across different languages and platforms, so developers can easily consume them in their applications. GraphQL is relatively new and not as widely supported, which could be an issue if you need to support many different languages and platforms.
- When you have a simple use case: If your use case is simple and you don’t need to make complex queries, then REST is a good choice. RESTful APIs are easy to implement and maintain, so they are well-suited for simple use cases.
In conclusion, both REST and GraphQL have their strengths and weaknesses. When deciding which one to use, you should consider the specific requirements of your application, such as the complexity of your use case, the need for caching, and the need to support multiple languages and platforms. If your schema is well-defined, and it is not likely to change in the near future, If you have a simple use case and don’t need to make complex queries, then REST is a good choice.