13 mins read

GraphQL vs REST: Selecting the Right API Approach

Top Sources for Software Developers

Find Top IT Companies Ratings

Become a freelance Software Developer

Learn Computer Programming

What determines the effectiveness of an API approach? Is it the structure, the flexibility or perhaps the robustness it provides? How do you resolve the conundrum of choosing between GraphQL and REST API? These are challenging questions that often plague developers and decision-makers in software development.

Several industry experts, including those at FreeCodeCamp and IBM, affirm the predicament faced by developers in choosing the right API approach. First and foremost, the decision to choose between REST and GraphQL is influenced by the need to solve problems related to over fetching, under fetching, and the difficulty in evolving APIs, which REST APIs commonly encounter. GraphQL, on the other hand, provides an efficient and powerful alternative to REST, inherently solving these problems with a different approach to client-server interaction.

In this article you will learn about the fundamental differences between REST and GraphQL, and evaluate the pros and cons of each approach. The discussion will delve into the structure and flexibility provided by each API, and how these factors influence their efficiency and robustness.

Finally, we will discuss real-life examples where GraphQL outperforms REST and vice versa, that will empower developers and decision-makers to navigate the complex landscape of API approaches with more clarity and confidence.

GraphQL vs REST: Selecting the Right API Approach

Definitions: Understanding GraphQL and REST APIs

GraphQL is a query language for application programming interfaces (APIs). In simple terms, it enables the client applications to expressly state the data they need, which ensures smoother and more effective communication with databases.

REST (Representational State Transfer) API is an architectural style for designing networked applications. It is a set of rules that developers follow when they create their API to enable interaction with other software.

While both are used to build APIs, their approach differs. GraphQL allows clients to define the structure of the responses, promoting efficiency as only the required data is transferred. On the other hand, REST returns fixed data structures, leading to more information being transferred which might not be necessary.

Unleashing the Power of GraphQL: The Groundbreaking API Alternative to REST

Understanding APIs is crucial in the world of software development, and the debate between the pros and cons of GraphQL and REST is a hot topic. Many misconceptions have clouded the judgment of developers for years. It’s high time to shatter these myths and unveil the truth about these two API approaches.

A Deeper Dive Into REST

Representational State Transfer, or REST, has been the go-to standard for web-based APIs for many years. Its architectural style, based on standard HTTP and CRUD operations, has brought a myriad of benefits to developers worldwide. REST offers simplicity and scalability, making it a favorite among large-scale projects and a staple in the world of web development. However, REST isn’t without its fair share of shortcomings:

  • Over-fetching: With REST, you can end up downloading more data than you need because it can’t send a partial response.
  • Under-fetching: REST can also lead to multiple round trips to the server because one endpoint doesn’t provide all the needed data, causing delays.
  • Nested Resources: Extracting specific data from nested resources is complex and can be time-consuming in REST.

Despite these setbacks, REST is still a robust and reliable API approach, providing solid performance and widespread understanding among developers.

Stepping Into The GraphQL Universe

GraphQL is a more recent introduction in the API reign, born from the necessity to eliminate some of the limitations that come with REST. GraphQL allows clients to specify exactly what data they need, eliminating the issues of over-fetching and under-fetching. This results in higher efficiency and speed. The client has total control over asking for specific data it needs, reducing the amount of data that needs to be sent over the network.

Unlike REST, GraphQL has built-in functionality to handle nested resources, which can result in reduced server requests. However, the trade-off includes a steeper learning curve and a more complex syntax to grasp compared to REST. Moreover, while it may reduce under-fetching or over-fetching data, it can inadvertently lead to increased processing power.

Shatter The Myths: Which Is Best?

There is no clear winner in the REST vs GraphQL battle. Both have their unique strengths and weaknesses and neither is capable of completely replacing the other. It is important to understand that your decision shouldn’t be based on popularity, but on your specific requirements. Factors such as the size and type of project, the expectations of your users, and the technological constraints of your team play a crucial role in choosing between these two API approaches.

Always remember, your choice between REST and GraphQL should be guided by the overall needs of your project, highlighting how they are not rivals, but rather complementary tools in the toolbox of a developer.

Dismantling the Hierarchy: How GraphQL Disrupts Traditional REST API Practices

When Should You Opt for GraphQL or REST?

Are you wondering how to decide between GraphQL and REST for modern application development? Your choice can significantly affect performance and versatility. Let’s unravel this complex decision-making process. Fundamentally, both GraphQL and REST represent different philosophies about how data should be transported over APIs. REST, as a more traditional approach, functions via defined URLs and HTTP methods, offering predictable and structured exchanges of data. On the other hand, GraphQL offers a more flexible query language and runtime for fulfilling those queries with your existing data, perfect for intricate networks with complex relational data.

The Core Issue in Making the Choice

Deciding between GraphQL and REST can come down to a rather philosophical decision: should data be tailored to meet the needs of specific requests (GraphQL) or abide by a definition-centric process (REST)? Both come with their benefits and drawbacks. For example, REST can lead to data over-fetching because the server defines what data is returned. In application networks that require extensive data, this can lead to performance issues as too much data is transferred when only a portion was needed. In contrast, while GraphQL can provide a more efficient interaction by allowing the client to request specific data and aggregate responses, it has its challenges such as HTTP caching, error handling, and a more significant learning curve.

Practices for Maximizing Potential with GraphQL and REST

Many successful examples point towards making a well-thought-out choice and then optimizing accordingly. Twitter, for instance, uses both GraphQL and REST APIs depending on the use case. For complex features like their TweetDeck, they use GraphQL to prevent over-fetching of data. However, for simpler tasks, they resort to REST APIs because of their time-tested reliability and ease of use. Facebook, on the other hand, which initially developed GraphQL, uses it extensively across all its applications. Facebook’s example demonstrates that when you have multiple clients and different requirements for each client, GraphQL’s flexibility can be beneficial. Conversely, for organizations with relatively simple data structures, adhering to REST can simplify the process and offer more predictable interactions.

Redefining Data Exchange: Why GraphQL has Overtaken REST in Modern API Architecture

Is There a Better Way to Retrieve Data?

An intelligent observer would ask if there’s a better way to handle data retrieval rather than the REST (Representational State Transfer). Over time, developers have grappled with concerns such as over-fetching, under-fetching and maintaining an ever-growing number of endpoints with REST APIs. Over-fetching is when the client downloads more information than is needed, while under-fetching is when a client makes too many requests to gather the required information. The dilemma arises in making a multitude of requests to different endpoints to gather the necessary material, resulting in both bandwidth expenditure and wasted time.

The Complexity of REST APIs

The complexity of REST APIs is the primary flaw that undermines its effectiveness. Traditionally, the REST approach entails managing different endpoints for different data entities. Consequently, front-end developers have to make multiple API calls to different endpoints to aggregate data. This can lead to performance degradation when dealing with substantial data. Equally, the maintenance of a significant number of complex endpoints can fine-tune a problematic issue over time for backend developers. The concerns ranging from the coordination of endpoints to occasional over and under-fetching impair the smooth operation of a system, making everything less efficient.

Towards Efficiency: GraphQL’s Promising Approach

Contrary to REST, GraphQL backs a client-specified data structure. It allows clients to request exactly what they need, eradicating the need for over-fetching and under-fetching. By leveraging a type system, GraphQL enables the declaration of the set of data requirements in a query. The server then responds precisely to the inquiry. Notably, GitHub and Shopify are among industry giants that have made a premeditated decision to switch to GraphQL for efficient data retrieval. GitHub adopted GraphQL in 2016 to deal with their complex system, which was becoming hard to manage due to REST API drawbacks. Shopify, an e-commerce giant, also transitioned to GraphQL for effective management of their vast data. It is clear, the direction the wind is blowing. GraphQL, with its ingenious approach, is steadily proving to be a game-changer in offering more efficient data retrieval.


Have you ever pondered the significant factors that influence your decision when selecting between GraphQL and REST for your API approach? Both technologies have their unique strengths and weaknesses, which heavily depend on the requirements and constraints of your project. GraphQL, with its flexibility, efficiency, and powerful developer tools, is an optimal solution for complex applications with multiple nested entities. On the other hand, REST, with its simplicity, versatility, and scalability, remains a solid choice for straightforward, CRUD-centric projects. The decision comes down to thoroughly understanding the requirements of your project and estimating the complexity of your data structures.

For those of you who have been avid followers of our blog, we truly value your support and dedication. We are equally excited about the insightful conversations and discussions that transpire in our comments section. It’s your engagement that fuels us to create more quality content promptly. Remember, the objective of this blog is not just to deliver comprehensive content but also to inspire in-depth discussion around the topics we publish. We look forward to your continued contribution and readership, and trust that our content will always provide you with the latest industry-related insights.

As we gear up for some innovative releases, brace yourselves for information-packed articles that aim to answer all your technical queries and offer remarkable insights. These are exciting times in the world of technology, and we intend to match that excitement with our future content. While we await the roll-out, we hope you would keep your enthusiasm alive and continue to embrace learnings from our existing publications. Our commitment is to aid in your technological journey, one blog post at a time. To all our readers, we promise – the best is yet to come!


1. What is the main difference between GraphQL and REST?
Answer: The main difference between GraphQL and REST lies in the data-fetching aspect. With GraphQL, you can request specific data, avoiding over-fetching or under-fetching, while REST tends to return all data related to an endpoint.

2. How does data handling differ in GraphQL and REST?
Answer: GraphQL allows clients to dictate the structure of the response data, eliminating a lot of data processing on the client side, while REST returns the data in a fixed structure that may contain more info than necessary.

3. What are the main advantages of using GraphQL over REST?
Answer: GraphQL has several advantages over REST including efficient data loading, real-time updates through subscriptions, and a strong type system. With GraphQL, you can get all the data you need in a single request, which is not usually the case with REST.

4. In what scenarios is REST potentially a better choice than GraphQL?
Answer: REST might be a better choice when building a public API, where the API consumers would not be able to specify the exact data they need. Additionally, REST can be simpler to use for simple web services due to existing tools and support.

5. Can GraphQL and REST be used together in the same project?
Answer: Yes, it’s possible to use both GraphQL and REST in the same project. Some teams may, for instance, use REST for public-facing APIs and GraphQL for internal data management operations.