GraphQL vs. REST API: What's the Difference and Which is Better for Your Project?

Danielle Ellis
Danielle Ellis


Are you wondering what the difference is between GraphQL and REST APIs? Are you trying to decide which one would be best for your project? The good news is that it's not an "either/or" choice.

Businesswoman in a modern office using her laptop for GraphQL vs. REST API

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Choosing the right technology solution depends on the individual needs of your business, so it’s important to take some time and understand both technologies before making your decision. To help you understand how these two solutions compare, think about them in terms of a well-known analogy: A GraphQL API is like riding a taxi, while a REST API allows you to drive your own car.

This blog post will explain GraphQL and REST APIs, their differences, and which is better for your project.

What is GraphQL?

GraphQL is a query programming language you can use to ask for data from a server. It allows clients to ask exactly for the data they need in one request, making it possible to get all the requested information in a single response. You can get information about anything the server knows about, like a list of all the users on a website or all the posts on a blog. GraphQL is also self-documenting, which makes it easy for developers to understand the data available and how to request it.

When should you use GraphQL?

GraphQL is ideal when you need finer control over the data you request from the server. GraphQL also requires fewer requests than a REST API since all the requested data can be returned in a single response. It also allows for greater flexibility in data manipulation, as GraphQL easily lets you query complex relationships between different data types.

What is REST API?

REST (Representational State Transfer) is an architectural style for building web services. A REST API is a way of accessing data from a remote web server. It allows clients to retrieve, add, delete, or modify data on the server with requests made over HTTP/HTTPS.

When should you use REST API?

REST API is best when you need to access a large amount of data quickly. It's also better for working with multiple data types since each request can be tailored to return only the specific data needed. Additionally, because REST APIs are more standardized and widely used, they tend to be easier and faster to set up than GraphQL APIs.

GraphQL vs. Rest API: Which is better for Your Project?

Now that you understand GraphQL and REST APIs, it’s time to decide which is best for your project.

A comparison of a simple request and response using GraphQL vs REST

Data Control

GraphQL gives you more control over your data since it allows you to request exactly what you need in a single query. On the other hand, REST APIs are more limited in data control since each request needs to be tailored for the specific data being requested.

Speed & Efficiency

REST APIs are faster and more efficient since they can quickly return large amounts of data. GraphQL is also fast but can be slower than a REST API if the requested data is complex or requires multiple requests.

Bandwidth Concerns

GraphQL also saves on bandwidth since it allows clients to request only the data they need in a single query. REST APIs require more requests, meaning they will use more bandwidth.

Set-up and Maintenance

REST APIs are easier to set up and maintain since they use standard protocols which are widely used. GraphQL is more complicated to set up and maintain since it requires custom code and a GraphQL schema.

Rapid Prototyping

GraphQL is great for rapid prototyping since you can quickly query data and get the exact information you need in a single response. REST APIs are better for complex applications that require more data manipulation.

Web Cache

GraphQL APIs are not as well-suited for web caching since each query could return different data. REST APIs, on the other hand, can be cached since the response from each request is the same.

Error Handling

REST APIs tend to be better for error handling since they use standard protocols that are more easily monitored. They return various HTTP statuses for various API request states. GraphQL can make it complicated to monitor problems and integrate with necessary monitoring tools as the 200 Ok status is returned for every API request, even in cases of errors.

The right choice between GraphQL and REST APIs depends on your business's needs, but both have their place in today’s tech landscape.

Wrapping Up GraphQL vs. REST APIs

GraphQL and REST APIs have pros and cons, so the right choice for your project ultimately depends on your needs. GraphQL is great for data control since it allows you to request exactly what you need in one query. It’s also a good choice if you need to prototype an application quickly. On the other hand, REST APIs are well-suited for large amounts of data, web caching, and error monitoring.

No matter which API type you choose, make sure to consider your project’s needs to select the best solution. GraphQL and REST APIs can both be powerful tools when implemented correctly.


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Learn more about the differences between and uses of these popular programming languages.