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REST vs GraphQL: When to Choose Which API Design?

Shamim Ahmed 60

REST vs GraphQL: When to Choose Which API Design?

Shamim Ahmed
Level Up Coding
Published in
3 min readJust now

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Photo by Sawyer Bengtson on Unsplash

In the ever-evolving landscape of API design, REST and GraphQL stand as two formidable titans, each offering a distinct set of advantages and considerations. Choosing between them can significantly impact your project’s success. Let’s delve into the factors to consider when deciding which API style to embrace.

REST APIs

Pros:

1. Well-Established and Widely Supported: REST has stood the test of time and boasts extensive support in the developer community.

2. Ease of Implementation and Debugging: REST’s simplicity makes it an excellent choice for developers looking for a straightforward implementation and debugging process.

3. Caching and Performance Optimization: REST excels at caching, making it ideal for applications where performance optimization is a priority.

4. Suitable for Public APIs: If your goal is to create a public API, REST’s standardized approach is a wise choice.

Cons:

1. Verbosity for Complex Data Fetching: While REST shines in simplicity, it can become verbose and inefficient when handling complex data fetching needs.

2. Multiple Requests for Related Data: Fetching related data might require multiple requests, potentially impacting performance.

3. Less Flexible for Evolving Data Models: REST might struggle to keep pace with evolving data models, demanding frequent endpoint changes.

GraphQL APIs

Pros:

1. Client-Defined Data Retrieval: GraphQL empowers clients to specify the exact data they need, reducing over-fetching and under-fetching.

2. Reduced Request Volume: By allowing more specific data requests, GraphQL can significantly reduce the number of requests required.

3. Flexibility for Evolving Data Models: As data models evolve, GraphQL’s flexibility ensures a smoother transition.

4. Ideal for Complex Data Fetching: In scenarios demanding intricate data fetching, GraphQL shines.

Cons:

1. Complex Implementation and Debugging: GraphQL, while powerful, can be more challenging to implement and debug, requiring a deeper understanding of its intricacies.

2. Less Established: As a newer entrant, GraphQL may lack the extensive history and support that REST enjoys.

3. Performance Considerations: Depending on the workload, GraphQL might not always outperform REST in terms of raw speed.

When to Use REST

Consider REST if:

- You require a well-established and widely supported API.
- Implementation and debugging ease are a priority.
- Your application relies on caching and performance optimization.
- You’re building a public API with standardized requirements.

When to Use GraphQL

Consider GraphQL if:

- You need an API that allows clients to define their specific data requirements.
- Reducing the number of required requests is crucial.
- Your application’s data model is expected to evolve over time.
- You’re handling complex data retrieval scenarios.

In general, REST suits simpler APIs or applications where raw performance is paramount. GraphQL excels in intricate APIs where clients require granular control over data retrieval.

Ultimately, the choice between REST and GraphQL hinges on the unique needs of your project. Consider your project’s complexity, scalability, and the exacting demands of your clients when making this pivotal decision. Whether you choose the well-trodden path of REST or venture into the dynamic world of GraphQL, success awaits when your choice aligns with your project’s objectives.