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GraphQL - The Stack -

This article was published on Sunday, December 6, 2020 by Vignesh T.V. @ The Guild Blog

This blog is a part of a series on GraphQL where we will dive deep into GraphQL and its ecosystem
one piece at a time

In this series, we had looked at some interesting parts of the GraphQL stack so far with a range of
tools, libraries and frameworks from the community. Let us continue the journey in this blog looking
at more such tools and services which have created a great impact in the GraphQL ecosystem.


The evolution of GraphQL clients have been really amazing, and I would say, this is one of the great
things about GraphQL given its powerful introspection capabilities, being self documenting and also
providing ability to extend everything with extensions.

It all started with GraphiQL demonstrating all these back in the day, but then came Playground
(which had recently merged with the GraphiQL team
to make things even more interesting), Altair and even
desktop/web/editor based clients like Insomnia,
Postman, Hoppscotch,
VSCode Rest Client and the
list goes on all proving that the developer experience with GraphQL can be made really better with
just some sugar on top.

But, some reasons why thinking about the future of GraphiQL feels really great is cause of the
upcoming support for Monaco mode ,
support for plugins and a lot of amazing features
from Playground to now become as part of GraphiQL as part of the transition according to the blog
linked above.

Also, embedding a GraphiQL editor is as simple as importing the HTML and related assets as specified
in their README.

And while the user experience is made as simple as possible, there are a huge number of components
which make it all happen behind the scenes as mentioned in the README and you can have a look at all
of them in the monorepo here and


Source: GraphiQL

Codemirror used to be
the interface which used to provide the editor support for GraphiQL, Playground, Insomnia and other
editors in the ecosystem in 1.x which is now being succeeded by the
language service
which takes care of providing a web/desktop IDE experience if you are using editors like VSCode,
Language Parser
which takes care of parsing the GraphQL SDL and operations you write and convert them to GraphQL AST
(If you are curious about how the AST looks, like, you can try going to
ASTExplorer select GraphQL, enter your operation and have a look at the
AST which is what the final representation will look like) and so on becoming a platform for not
just GraphiQL but the entire editor ecosystem.

GraphiQL Explorer

Starting with GraphQL or GraphiQL may actually have a learning curve for beginners since it takes a
different approach to dealing with data. And even after people settle down with GraphQL, some people
do feel like life was better for them when they were using something as simple as REST or GRPC.

This is where tools like GraphiQL Explorer play a major role where all their queries and mutations
can be constructed automatically just by checking all the fields you need from the schema.

This workflow feels intuitive since it is as simple as checking all the fields you need in your
client. You can read about how Onegraph solves this problem

It is just a React component which you include with your GraphiQL instance and the rest is history.

GraphQL Voyager

The next beautiful tool I would talk about here is the GraphQL Voyager. In fact, this is the first
tool I used when I was new to GraphQL few years back, and it drove me nuts seeing the potential of
what GraphQL can do.

The reason this is great is because, this leverages the complete power of introspection from
GraphQL. You get to see all the entities and how they are related, search through the schema and
also browse the docs

Source: GraphQL Voyager

And today, GraphQL Editor takes this one step
further allowing you to view, edit, browse all the entities and hierarchy making it really a great
tool for anyone who wants to quickly work through the schema.

GraphQL Upload

One important thing which GraphQL Spec did not discuss is a way to transmit files over the wire when
using GraphQL. This is where GraphQL Upload comes in. While not an official spec from GraphQL
foundation, Jayden had done a great job to put together a
multipart spec to address exactly
this problem.

GraphQL Upload is the library which provides a great implementation of this spec with an ability to
work with various frameworks. One thing to remember is that, while GraphQL Upload definitely does
the job and works well over a significant scale, you might want to stick to HTTP for higher
production workloads because of the
reasons outlined in this blog.

And if you are using something like a GraphQL Gateway with either federation or stitching, you might
want to make sure that you don't overload the gateway transmitting files creating probable
bottlenecks which can affect the rest of your requests. So, try striking a balance since GraphQL
need not be a solution for every problem.

GraphQL WS

Subscriptions are a powerful part of GraphQL allowing you to track all the operations happening with
the data in near-real time but this mandates the use of a protocol like websockets or use something
like Server Sent Events (SSE).

While subscription-transport-ws from
Apollo initially started off this journey,
it is not actively maintained and GraphQL WS by Denis definitely is
a great replacement to that having no external dependencies and having the ability to work across
many frameworks.

But do remember that, websocket might loose its lead in the future especially with the introduction
of HTTP/2 and HTTP/3
as mentioned here
while definitely here to stay. But this wouldn't affect GraphQL in any way since its transport

Also note that subscriptions are not the only way to do real time communications in GraphQL. There
are also things like Live Queries with
great libraries like this from Laurin which you can

Apollo Federation

While Schema Stitching was initially advocated by Apollo with introduction of many helper functions
in GraphQL Tools, their
direction did change soon
after hearing a lot of feedback from their customers and took their call to introduce Apollo
Federation. You can read their reasoning in
this blog but this does not mean
that stitching has lost its relevance
especially with the introduction of Type Merging.

Apollo Federation does a great job especially when you use it with the rest of the ecosystem from
Apollo like the Apollo Studio. Apollo Stack does offer
a lot of features which might be relevant to working with a
data graph in an organization starting from providing a registry where you can upload parts of the
combined schema from all services, version control the changes to your schema validating breaking
changes, providing metrics regarding all the clients consuming the schema, tracing of all
operations, multiple variants to manage multiple environments, alerting across multiple channels,
and a CLI to work with all of these.

And this can definitely help teams who want to maintain their own part of the schema.

Federation comes with its
own specification and directives
as part of it which helps people to define all of the relations between multiple GraphQL entities so
that the Apollo Gateway can
combine them all together without having to modify the GraphQL gateway and also functions like
__resolveReference which helps in resolving an entity with its reference as specified by the

The Apollo CLI when combined with Federation does
come with a lot of helpers to take care of things like pushing the schema, listing the services in
the studio, doing codegen and so on though I am not currently sure why they are
rewriting it again to Rust apart from the reasons as
suggested here.

Let's quickly look at how Apollo Studio lets you manage the schema

This is how you maintain multiple Data graphs in your organization across environments

View Datagraph

Browse through the schema, its types, documentation and so on

Browse Schema

Track the changelog of your schema over time

Schema changelog

Browse through the SDL of your schema

Browse SDL

Execute GraphQL operations against your schema

Run GraphQL Operations

and does offer a lot more especially when you are a paying customer.

Federation with Apollo Server does not support subscriptions yet,
and you might want to stick with stitching if you are looking for subscriptions support or switch to
some other server like Mercurius
since it does allow subscriptions over federation.


Gatsby is a static site generator powered by React, GraphQL and a lot of plugins contributed by the
community which helps you sites simply by pooling in data from multiple different sources in
multiple different ways, and it really popularized the idea of doing this all via GraphQL. If you
want to know why and how Gatsby uses GraphQL, you can
give this a read. And while Gatsby does offer
both Server Side Rendering and
Static Site Generation, I would say it
all boils down to your use case.

While Gatsby did popularize the idea of using GraphQL for static sites, there are a lot of other
static site generators out there like Eleventy,
Jekyll, Hugo, etc. and I find myself
personally aligning towards Eleventy because of quite a few reasons which may not be right for this
blog. But if you are curious, you can read blogs like this and
this which gives a comparison.

Opentelemetry - GraphQL

Opentelemetry is the new standard for instrumentation (especially after
Open Tracing and Open Census merging
together) and this makes things really amazing for people since there were quite a few overlap
before in between them which can now be avoided to bring about a powerful tracing standard.

Opentelemetry is not specific to any language or implementation, and you can find all the amazing
projects from Open Telemetry hosted here

Now, the exciting thing is that there is now a reference implementation to the same using GraphQL
which you can find
and also an example to help you out with the same

This when used with Jaeger, Zipkin or
Tempo can provide you with Traces for your GraphQL operations which
you can track across your resolvers. Do note that it is not advisable to be turned on for everything
since it has a performance overhead.

This can give you a context on how your data and context flow irrespective of your architecture in
your resolvers and functions.

GraphQL Faker

Faker.js has been a great project to quickly generate mock or
sample data providing various types of entities inbuilt. For eg. you can generate random addresses,
images, URLs and so on, helping you to quickly test out your application without relying on the
server or the backend to hold data.

This has become even more amazing with GraphQL Faker since it allows you to use all the great things
which Faker provides you with directives. Just define what data you want a specific field to
generate by specifying the relevant directives and GraphQL Faker can actually generate all the data
for you using Faker.js

Source: GraphQL Faker

If you are using @graphql-tools you can also use faker.js directly and combine it with
Mocking to get similar results, but without the need to
change your SDL.

While there are a lot of other tools we can discuss, the GraphQL ecosystem is huge and this pretty
much has no end. But I do presume that these are all the tools you mainly need to start your GraphQL
journey and leverage the ecosystem in the best way possible.

But with this the GraphQL journey is still not over. We will continue the next blog discussing a few
more interesting things as part of the GraphQL series.

Is there anything you would like to see me address in this series? Do let me know, and we can
probably do that in an another post.

If you have any questions or are looking for help, feel free to reach out to me
@techahoy anytime.

And if this helped, do share this across with your friends, do hang around and follow us for more
like this every week. See you all soon.

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