What is the difference between GraphQL and REST?

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GraphQL and REST are two different architectural styles for building APIs, with some key differences: 1. Data Fetching
  • REST: Clients access data by calling separate endpoints for each resource they need. This can lead to over-fetching (getting more data than needed) or under-fetching (requiring multiple requests to get all needed data).
  • GraphQL: Clients describe the data requirements through a single query, getting exactly the data they need in one request. This prevents over/under-fetching issues.
2. API Structure
  • REST: Resources are accessed via URLs and HTTP methods (GET, POST, PUT, DELETE). The URLs identify the resources, and the HTTP methods define the operation.
  • GraphQL: There is just a single URL/endpoint. The query string in the request body specifies what data is needed and how to fetch/manipulate it.
3. Flexibility
  • REST: Once the API is defined, the structure of data returned is fixed. Adding or omitting data may require changing the API.
  • GraphQL: Clients can tailor queries to ask for exactly what they need, making the API more flexible to add or remove fields without impacting existing queries.
4. Caching
  • REST: Responses can be cached easily due to the predictable URL structure.
  • GraphQL: Caching is more complex since the same endpoint serves all queries. Per-query caching is needed.
5. Tooling
  • REST: Well-established standards and tooling for documentation, testing, security, etc.
  • GraphQL: Newer, so tooling is still evolving, but benefits from its strong type system for tooling like code generation and validation.
In summary, GraphQL provides more flexibility and efficiency for complex requirements by allowing clients to dictate data needs. REST is simpler and more established, making it suitable for APIs with more limited and stable data requirements.
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