gRPC vs. GraphQL: Which API Is Right for You

Discover the differences between gRPC and GraphQL and find out which API development method is the best fit for your needs. Explore their features, benefits, and use cases to make an informed decision.

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gRPC vs. GraphQL: Which API Is Right for You

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What is GraphQL?

GraphQL is a query language specifically designed for querying graph-shaped data, hence the name GraphQL. Although it shares the "QL" suffix with SQL, GraphQL is fundamentally a different language. It is not inherently tied to NoSQL databases, even though GraphQL can be used with NoSQL databases as the underlying storage. It can also work with SQL databases or any other storage method, such as text files or in-memory storage.

What is gRPC?

You can think of gRPC as an open-source framework built on top of RPC, designed with HTTP/2 in mind. Therefore, gRPC inherits the advantages of HTTP/2, including:

  • Binary framing for data transmission
  • Multiplexing
  • Server push
  • Header compression

As depicted in the diagram, when using gRPC for remote service invocation, the client only needs a gRPC stub. It sends Proto Requests to the gRPC server and receives the invocation results through Proto Responses from the server.

gRPC vs GraphQL:

Interface Design:

Both gRPC and GraphQL fall under the category of Interface Description Languages (IDLs) as they describe how communication occurs between computers. They are applicable to different programming languages, and various tools can be used to generate type interfaces in different languages. GraphQL is transport-agnostic and commonly works over HTTP, while gRPC operates over HTTP2.

Information Format:

  • gRPC uses a binary format for data transmission, including only the values being transmitted.
  • GraphQL transmits data in JSON format, which is text-based and includes field names in addition to values.
  • gRPC messages are smaller in size compared to GraphQL messages due to the combination of binary format and fewer transmitted information.
  • The binary format used by gRPC has the advantage of faster serialization and parsing compared to GraphQL. However, it also has the disadvantage of being harder to debug and inspect than JSON, which has a more explicit information structure.

Default Values:

  • gRPC messages do not include default values, resulting in smaller message size.
  • GraphQL allows setting default values for parameters but not for requested fields.

Request Format

Request Format: In gRPC, we make one method call at a time. If we need more data than what a single method returns, we have to make multiple method calls. If we require the response data from the first method call to determine the next method to call, it results in consecutive round trips. This can cause significant latency unless the client and server are in the same data center. This issue is known as underfetching, where the returned data from a request is insufficient, leading to the need for multiple requests to retrieve the required data.

Forward Compatibility:

Both gRPC and GraphQL have good forward compatibility. This means that existing clients can be updated to communicate with updated servers using their respective mechanisms.


One of the benefits is that existing clients can be updated to communicate with updated servers using the same client-side code.


  • gRPC supports server-to-client data transmission (server streaming).
  • GraphQL supports server-to-client data transmission (Subscriptions).

Using Apidog to send GraphQL


gRPC, RPC, and JSON-RPC Interfaces

gRPC is a framework for RPC (Remote Procedure Call), and we discussed gRPC earlier. Now, let's talk about how to debug an RPC interface.

RPC is short for Remote Procedure Call, which is a technology used in distributed systems. It allows one application to call functions or services of another application over a network. RPC can be implemented using various protocols, and JSON-RPC is one of them. JSON-RPC uses JSON data format for encoding and decoding, and it uses HTTP or other protocols for data transmission.

Using Apidog to send JSON-RPC Interface