GraphQL and REST are the two most popular methods for building APIs. Both work by sending HTTP requests and receiving responses, but they vary in how data is fetched. In REST, you usually request multiple endpoints to retrieve data. In contrast, GraphQL allows you to request only the data you need in a single query.

5 Differences between GraphQL and REST APIs

  1. The method of data delivery to the client
  2. Speed 
  3. The message formats for mutations
  4. Their use in creating vs. optimizing APIs
  5. The structure of the request object

In this article, we’ll discuss the features and applications of REST and GraphQL and when to use them. Finally, we will discuss why it is preferable to use GraphQL instead of REST.

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What Is GraphQL?

Facebook developed GraphQL for internal use; it was made open source in 2015. It is now primarily maintained by the GraphQL Foundation. GraphQL is an open-source data query and manipulation language for APIs. It allows you to send queries to get exactly the data you are looking for in a single request.

The building blocks of GraphQL are queries and mutations. Queries are used to retrieve data from a server. Mutations are used to make changes to data, such as creating, updating or deleting records.


GraphQL features

GraphQL is a strongly typed language, which means each field and variable in a query has a specific type. Types are defined in the GraphQL schema.

  • It decouples the frontend from the backend, eliminating the need to create multiple endpoints for different use cases.
  • It avoids over-fetching or under-fetching of data. Over-fetching occurs when a client receives more data than it needs, and under-fetching occurs when the client does not receive all of the data it needs.
  • It saves bandwidth by allowing clients to request only the specific fields they need and no more.


GraphQL benefits

  • One of the great advantages of GraphQL is the ability to access all data points through a single API endpoint. You don’t need to send multiple requests to retrieve information about an object.
  • GraphQL can better handle complex systems and microservices.
  • GraphQL combines multiple schemas into a single schema to make it easier for clients to access data.
  • Due to GraphQL’s ability to avoid over-fetching and under-fetching data, the server returns secure, easy-to-read data, which makes API requests and responses faster.


GraphQL applications

  • It provides a way of working with Relay and other client frameworks. Relay is a GraphQL client framework that helps developers manage data fetching, caching, automatic optimizations, etc.
  • Improves the performance of the mobile app by reducing the data transfer between the mobile app and the server.
  • GraphQL can be integrated with existing APIs to enhance and extend the functionality of old and existing APIs without disrupting their existing endpoints.
  • GraphQL helps in aggregating data from multiple sources into a single API. This can be helpful in building applications that need to provide a unified view of data that is spread across various systems.


REST stands for Representational State Transfer. It was created in 2000 by Roy Fielding, one of the authors of HTTP. REST was introduced as a successor to SOAP APIs. REST is a popular software architectural style that helps programmers and software architects build robust, reliable and scalable applications and APIs.


REST API features

  • REST has a uniform and consistent interface. No matter what kind of information you want to retrieve or actions you want to perform on a resource, you use the same set of HTTP methods (GET, POST, PUT, DELETE, etc.).
  • The REST APIs can easily be scaled up or down to meet changes in demand by adding more servers or resources.
  • REST APIs use URIs (uniform resource identifiers) to identify and discover resources.
  • REST API can be used for caching, which means that frequently accessed data can be stored in memory (proxy server or CDN), thus improving the performance of applications.


REST API Benefits

  • The main advantage is an easy learning curve, so you can easily learn REST APIs compared with other APIs.
  • Simple and clean. Reading the URL will give you an idea of what the URL is doing.
  • REST APIs are flexible and can be used with different programming languages and frameworks.
  • REST APIs support caching, which can improve the performance of web applications by reducing the number of requests to the server and can easily manage high load.


REST API applications

  • REST APIs are extensively used in social media integration, enabling developers to access data and interact with social media features easily.
  • REST APIs are used for user authentication and authorization, allowing developers to implement secure login and access control in their applications.
  • REST APIs are used in content management systems, meaning developers can create, update and delete content efficiently.
  • REST APIs are stateless, which simplifies server-side logic and allows REST APIs to handle high traffic loads.

GraphQL vs REST APIs: Key Differences

Both GraphQL and REST are popular ways to design and build APIs. They have some key differences. In short, GraphQL and REST APIs differ in how they structure requests and responses.

  • The main difference between REST and GraphQL is the method of data delivery to the client. In GraphQL, the client requests data with queries, while in REST architecture, the client sends an HTTP request for data and receives an HTTP response.
  • GraphQL offers faster development speeds, while REST offers slower development speeds.
  • The message format for REST mutations can be anything, while the message format for GraphQL mutations must be a string.
  • REST has been used to create new APIs, while GraphQL has been used to optimize performance and enhance flexibility.
  • In REST, the structure of the request object is defined on the server, while in GraphQL, the structure of the request object is defined on the client.

Let’s look at an example of how GraphQL and REST APIs differ.


Rest approach

Endpoint for getting a particular book: will give you the title, genre, reviews and author ID. The endpoint for getting the author info of that book: will give you the author’s name, age, biography and books’ ID.


GraphQL approach

Query to get the book data and its author data.


    book(id: 23){














In the REST approach, we make multiple requests to retrieve the book and author information. But in the GraphQL approach, we simply pass a single query and get all the data we want, including book information, author information and so on.


GraphQL vs REST APIs: Key Similarities

Despite their strengths and weaknesses, GraphQL and REST APIs share some key similarities:

  • Both are HTTP-based, meaning they use HTTP as the underlying communication protocol.
  • Both are stateless, with each request to the API being independent of any other request.
  • Both typically return data in JSON format, a lightweight data-interchange format that is easy to read and write and widely supported by programming languages and frameworks.
  • Both can leverage caching mechanisms to improve performance.
  • Both can be used to create CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) APIs.

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When to Use GraphQL vs REST API

Let’s compare the two APIs based on performance, query complexity, popularity and learning curve and see which is best to use in different scenarios.



GraphQL performs faster than REST APIs because it provides a single endpoint to access all resources. REST APIs use multiple endpoints, which can result in network latency.


Query complexity

Over time, GraphQL queries can become complex because GraphQL does not offer separate endpoints. REST APIs offer separate endpoints, making them easier to understand.


Community support

GraphQL is still young, but its adoption rate and popularity are growing rapidly. REST has been in the market for a long time and is used by companies building small microservices and those creating complex apps.

Google Trends worldwide data shows that REST APIs are still at the top.

Learning curve

REST API is easy to get started with and simple to use because it is widely integrated into most popular frameworks and major programming languages. GraphQL has a steep learning curve, which means it is not easy to learn. Beginners may struggle to understand GraphQL and develop complex queries.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the differences between GraphQL and REST?

Both are popular ways to design and build APIs. GraphQL and REST APIs differ in how they structure requests and responses. GraphQL offers faster development speeds, while REST offers slower development speeds.

When should you use GraphQL instead of REST?

GraphQL simplifies the task of aggregating data from multiple sources or APIs and returning it to the client in a single response. This can be ideal for projects where clients need to fetch specific data from different sources or where they need to reduce the number of API calls they make.

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