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Megan Sullivan

[Sketchnote] Why Use GraphQL?

December 13th, 2020

(2-minute read)


Since I started working at Gatsby, I've been learning more about GraphQL. One resource that has been really helpful is How To GraphQL.

I made a sketchnote based on my current understanding of their video: GraphQL is the better REST. The rest of this post describes the content of the sketchnote.

A sketchnote about why to use GraphQL

But First... What is GraphQL?

  • An API standard created by Facebook.
  • An alternative to the REST API standard.

What is an API?

API stands for "application programming interface." It's an agreement for how one program talks to another.

One program (the client) sends a request to another application (the server) to ask for information. The server sends a response with the requested data back to the client.

Why Use GraphQL?

Reason #1: Only One Endpoint

A GraphQL server exposes a single endpoint that handles all incoming requests, regardless of the data being requested.

An analogy:

  • REST is like shopping at multiple, smaller retailers. You have to make multiple trips to different stores to buy all the things you need.
  • GraphQL is like doing all your shopping at one big-box retailer (like Costco). You can make a single trip to buy everything you're looking for in one place.

Reason #2: No Underfetching

Underfetching: When the response from the first endpoint doesn't have all the information you need, so you have to make another requst to a different endpoint.

An analogy:

  • REST is like solving a crime by following a trail of clues. Each clue on its own isn't enough to solve the mystery: you have to put them all together to get the final answer you're looking for.
  • GraphQL is like identifying a thief directly by playing back security camera footage. You can get the information you're looking for in one step.

Reason #3: No Overfetching

Overfetching: When the response from an endpoint includes more data than you actually need for your use case.

An analogy:

  • REST is like asking a chatty person for information. You ask them, "When is your birthday?" and they start telling you their entire life story.
  • GraphQL is like asking a terse person for information. You ask them, "When is your birthday?" and they tell you a date. They give you only as much information as you ask for.

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