GraphQL is a data query protocol originally developed by Facebook for internal use. Since 2015, it exists in an open source version that has promoted its development and that has generated many advantages and practical benefits.
If you are familiar with how applications work, you will know that data query protocols are essential to obtain all kinds of reports and information. REST is the most widely used mechanism, but now GraphQL has emerged as an alternative that aims to better adapt to current needs.
The essential objective of GraphQL is to offer clients a more direct, simple and efficient way to obtain exactly the data they require, through a powerful and dynamic protocol.
The openness of the code has allowed that in a few years GraphQL has reached a great development worldwide. Today, an increasingly large community has been consolidated that participates creating guides and tutorials for its use, as well as tools to develop APIs with great ease.
Although it does not originally offer many resources on the backend, it is designed to generate results that are easily interpreted by humans.
Unlike REST, which requires making a call for each data query, in GraphQL a single request is used, through which information from different tables or databases can be accessed.
This is important, as it not only translates into a more direct and simple environment, but also saves the consumption of a large amount of resources, which are often necessary through environments such as REST.
While REST only offers an ad-hoc query system, with GraphQL, there is a cleaner and more direct layering scheme for the connection between servers and clients.
In REST, it is common that we have to face problems such as data over-recovery, that is, receiving more information than we really need, since it is more difficult to obtain only some specific fields. This implies an excessive consumption of bandwidth and, consequently, a longer response time.
GraphQL is also designed to tidy up the chaos in API manipulation, through a well-defined protocol that any developer can easily learn to handle in a few minutes.
Through this environment, complications such as having to generate the documentation for the operation of the API or having to invest too much time in understanding how its procedures are structured are avoided.
This has enabled companies to reduce development costs, as well as speed up the realization process, which translates into higher productivity.
One of the most common challenges for developers was the fact of facing outdated API documentation, where the control parameters were not clear. On the contrary, one of the main qualities of GraphQL is that it has a very solid, reliable and well-defined scheme that allows you to have control of the configurations.
There are 3 main operations or Queries: the queries to the API, the mutations (which are functions that carry out modifications and send a response) and the subscriptions (which allow receiving the data of the changes on the server). All of this is done under the well-defined parameters of the SDL.
Another common problem for developers occurs when you have more than one client for the same project. For example, one structure for iOS, another for Android, and another for the web. However, thanks to the compatibility and multi-system capacity of GraphQL, it is possible to connect information and communicate results from different environments.
The union of diagrams, or “Schema stitching”, of GraphQL allows to connect and combine multiple APIs to form a single interface in the backend, which is very useful when we want to connect with third-party APIs, such as Shopify, Github and others, since we can delegate or combine information and extract data from all these interfaces.
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With GraphQL, we can benefit from greater ease during development. By reducing the number of requests to display complex data sets, the complexity of front-end programming is also reduced, resulting in fewer potential errors.
The speed of web service will depend on many factors, such as the language, the servers where it runs, etc. Thanks to the possibility of accessing an arbitrary set of data from the web service, we can gain in performance thanks to the decrease in the server number.
While REST is resource-oriented, GraphQL allows you to define what information you want to receive and in what format. With the GraphQL query language, when a request is made to the server, it is possible to define what data will be received in the said query and obtain a single resource with its own certain data and other related resources.