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API Development: Difference Between GraphQL and REST API

API Development: Difference Between GraphQL and REST API

Today’s web technologies are renewed every day. Developers’ web development tools, architectures, and methods are regularly updated with new technologies. Today, developers can use many API protocols, especially API development, in their web applications. Some are SOAP API, REST API, gRPC, and GraphQL.

Especially REST API and GraphQL are the most preferred API protocols today. Many businesses and developers frequently use these two API protocols in their applications for different purposes and needs. There are many differences between these two. In this article, we will examine these two API protocols and discuss their differences.

What Is the REST API?

what is the rest api for api development

REST (Representational State Transfer) stands out as a distinctive architectural style that strictly adheres to specific constraints throughout the process of developing web services. It serves as a powerful replacement for SOAP APIs, introducing a novel approach. RESTful or REST APIs, which conform to REST standards, form the foundation of web service APIs. Unlike SOAP, REST APIs exhibit remarkable flexibility by not limiting themselves to XML as the sole data format. Instead, they offer the capability to return diverse data formats such as JSON (JavaScript Object Notation), XML, and YAML, thereby catering to a broader range of requirements.

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When a client invokes REST APIs, it triggers the seamless transfer of server resources in a standardized representation format. These resources possess the unique characteristic of being optionally convertible, granting the flexibility to adjust them as needed while providing essential information related to the requested resource.

Throughout the API lifecycle of development, a RESTful API plays a pivotal role, serving as the backbone for creating dynamic and efficient web services. Proper management of these APIs involves utilizing various tools and techniques, including an API gateway, API blueprint, and API development tools. The process encompasses activities such as defining API specifications, developing APIs, implementing API servers, and conducting thorough HTTP API testing. Additionally, considerations such as API throttling and the utilization of an API key to ensure secure access to web services are vital elements within the API development process.

What Is the Importance of the REST API?

In the realm of software development, REST APIs have emerged as a preferred choice for building robust and scalable web services. By leveraging existing API functions and adhering to industry-standard practices, developers can create a comprehensive ecosystem of interconnected APIs that seamlessly interact with each other.

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How Does a REST API Work?

The REST API (Representational State Transfer Application Programming Interface) operates using the client-server communication model and is based on the principles of the REST architectural style. To explain through an example:

The client requests data or resources by sending a GET request to a REST API. This request is made via a specific URL (resource). For example, a URL such as “/api/users/123” can be used to retrieve a user’s profile information.

The server receives this request, performs the necessary actions, and returns an HTTP response to the client. For example, in response to a GET request, the server may return the user’s profile information in JSON format. The response may contain an HTTP status code (eg 200 OK) and a body containing the data sent to the client.

An example GET request and response:

What Is the GraphQL?

what is the graphql

GraphQL is a powerful query language. Unlike traditional REST APIs that rely on multiple endpoints, GraphQL allows clients to request specific data in a single request. It serves as an intermediate layer between the client and the API server, enabling efficient and flexible data transfer.

With GraphQL, clients can define precisely what data they need by sending a query to the API server. The server then responds with a JSON object that matches the structure of the query. This client-driven approach eliminates over-fetching or under-fetching of data, optimizing API usage and minimizing unnecessary data transfer. GraphQL also provides features such as real-time subscriptions and mutations for updating data, making it suitable for dynamic and interactive applications.

As a result, GraphQL maximizes application performance, enabling more streamlined development and improved performance in web and mobile application development.

What Is the Importance of GraphQL?

The importance of GraphQL stems from its ability to address the challenges faced by traditional REST APIs, making it a valuable tool in web API development. GraphQL’s ability to retrieve only the requested data significantly reduces the payload size and eliminates the need for multiple API requests. This efficiency leads to faster and more responsive applications, especially in scenarios with limited bandwidth or high-latency connections.

How Does GraphQL Work?

GraphQL is a client-based data query language and allows the client to specify exactly what data it wants. A GraphQL query is sent by the client to the API server, and the server parses this query and returns the data requested by the client.

For example, in a traditional REST API for an HTTP GET request, the client gets all the data by making a request to a specific URL. But in GraphQL, the client specifies only the data it needs in its request. The server receives this GraphQL query, parses the specified data, and sends it back to the client in a single response. In this way, problems such as excessive data intake or insufficient data intake are eliminated and the client receives only the data it requests.

An example GraphQL query request and response:

What Are the Differences Between REST API and GraphQL in API Development?

In this section, we will talk about the differences between REST API and GraphQL.

  • GraphQL gives the client flexibility to request specific data, while REST APIs return all data. While GraphQL returns only the data requested by the client, REST APIs return the response containing all the data.
  • In GraphQL, the data format is usually JSON, while REST APIs may support JSON, XML, or other formats.
  • GraphQL uses a single endpoint, while REST APIs can use multiple endpoints.
  • GraphQL can easily query the associated data, while for REST APIs multiple requests can be made to get the associated data.
  • While GraphQL does versioning directly in the query language, REST APIs can version via URL or header.
  • GraphQL has no issues with data overloading or incomplete retrieving, while REST APIs can sometimes have an issue with overloading or missing retrieving.
  • While flexible queries and fields can be specified on the client side in GraphQL, server-side changes may be required for REST APIs.
  • Advanced tools and documentation are available for both GraphQL and REST APIs, but the GraphQL ecosystem is growing rapidly.

Conclusion

As a result, there are many API protocols that developers can choose during their API development process. The most popular of these are REST API and GraphQL. These two protocols offer different unique advantages and privileges to developers.

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FAQs

Q: What Are the API Protocols and  Artchitectures in API Development?

A: There are many API protocols nowadays. The most popular of these protocols are as follows:

  • REST
  • SOAP
  • GraphQL
  • gRPC

Q: What Are the Key Differences Between REST and GraphQL?

A: There are multiple key differences between REST and GraphQL. Firstly, REST has a more traditional approach and returns all data while GraphQL allows the client to request specific data. Then, REST APIs use multiple endpoints while GraphQL uses a single endpoint. Also, REST APIs usually use JSON, XML, or other formats while GraphQL uses JSON format.

Q: Importance of API Documentation in API Development?

A: API documentation is important in API development because they provide API users with guidance on how to use the API, what endpoints are available, what parameters are accepted, and how to get responses. In addition, API documentation saves developers time by providing the information necessary for fast integration and ensures that the API is used correctly, avoiding errors and unnecessary questions.

Q: How to Make API Calls with GraphQL?

A: API calls with GraphQL are different from other traditional API methods. First, the client creates a GraphQL query to determine what data it’s requesting. Then it sends this query to the server as a GraphQL request. The server performs the necessary operations to analyze the query and collect data from the database or other sources. As a result, the server generates and returns the response containing the data requested by the client.

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