GraphQL Intro

GraphQL Logo

Spend 30 minutes learning how to adapt your existing ORM, SOA, or REST API to GraphQL so that you can begin to use GraphQL-based technologies like Relay.

What is GraphQL?

A GraphQL query is a string interpreted by a server that returns data in a specified format. Here is an example query:

(Note: this syntax is slightly different from previous GraphQL examples. We’ve recently been making improvements to the language.)

And here is the response to that query.

We will dig into the syntax and semantics of GraphQL in a later post, but even a simple example shows many of its design principles:

  • Hierarchical: Most product development today involves the creation and manipulation of view hierarchies. To achieve congruence with the structure of these applications, a GraphQL query itself is a hierarchical set of fields. The query is shaped just like the data it returns. It is a natural way for product engineers to describe data requirements.
  • Product-centric: GraphQL is unapologetically driven by the requirements of views and the front-end engineers that write them. We start with their way of thinking and requirements and build the language and runtime necessary to enable that.
  • Client-specified queries: In GraphQL, the specification for queries are encoded in theclient rather than the server. These queries are specified at field-level granularity. In the vast majority of applications written without GraphQL, the server determines the data returned in its various scripted endpoints. A GraphQL query, on the other hand, returns exactly what a client asks for and no more.
  • Backwards Compatible: In a world of deployed native mobile applications with no forced upgrades, backwards compatibility is a challenge. Facebook, for example, releases apps on a two week fixed cycle and pledges to maintain those apps for at least two years. This means there are at a minimum 52 versions of our clients per platform querying our servers at any given time. Client-specified queries simplifies managing our backwards compatibility guarantees.
  • Structured, Arbitrary Code: Query languages with field-level granularity have typically queried storage engines directly, such as SQL. GraphQL instead imposes a structure onto a server, and exposes fields that are backed by arbitrary code. This allows for both server-side flexibility and a uniform, powerful API across the entire surface area of an application.
  • Application-Layer Protocol: GraphQL is an application-layer protocol and does not require a particular transport. It is a string that is parsed and interpreted by a server.
  • Strongly-typed: GraphQL is strongly-typed. Given a query, tooling can ensure that the query is both syntactically correct and valid within the GraphQL type system before execution, i.e. at development time, and the server can make certain guarantees about the shape and nature of the response. This makes it easier to build high quality client tools.
  • Introspective: GraphQL is introspective. Clients and tools can query the type system using the GraphQL syntax itself. This is a powerful platform for building tools and client software, such as automatic parsing of incoming data into strongly-typed interfaces. It is especially useful in statically typed languages such as Swift, Objective-C and Java, as it obviates the need for repetitive and error-prone code to shuffle raw, untyped JSON into strongly-typed business objects.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.