GraphQL vs gRPC in 2024

We compare and contrast GraphQL and gRPC, two alternatives to REST, the leading API architectural style, focusing on their key features such as performance, message format, learning curve, and more. In this article, we tell you everything you need to know about these two API architectural types in 2024.

GraphQL and gRPC are two alternatives to the leading API architectural style, REST. Although they are not as popular as REST, with GraphQL ranking as the third API protocol of choice among developers and gRPC ranking sixth, it's important to understand their main benefits and differences.

However, when choosing between gRPC and GraphQL, it's crucial to consider specific application needs.

gRPC excels in backend microservices communication with its high performance and robust security, while GraphQL is ideal for flexible and efficient data retrieval in client-facing applications.

The decision hinges on factors such as the nature of data exchange, the environment (server vs. client), and the specific performance and development requirements of your project.

In this article, we will explore these two API technologies, their benefits and differences, and when to use GraphQL over gRPC and vice versa.

What is GraphQL?

GraphQL is a query language and a server-side runtime developed specifically for APIs by Facebook in 2012 and released in 2015.

GraphQL prioritizes the client's request over the server protocol, allowing developers to pull data from multiple sources within a single API call and simplifying the process of adding information. GraphQL operates by allowing you to describe your data structure in the query itself, enhancing accuracy and efficiency.

A GraphQL schema details all the potential data a client can access, including object fields, relationships, and available operations. Client requests are verified and processed based on the schema.

Its developer-friendly approach has increased its popularity, especially in teams where the front-end and back-end work separately.

What is gRPC?

Google Remote Procedure Call, or “gRPC,” is an open-source framework developed by Google.

RPC is the acronym for Remote Procedure Call, a docker-based application that follows the client-server paradigm to execute remote functions even when the host is allocated in different hardware machines. RPC allows changes in the state of the server, therefore it works with actions rather than data.

It's important to distinguish between traditional RPC (Remote Procedure Call) and its more advanced descendant, gRPC. Introduced by Google in 2015 as a universal, cross-platform framework, gRPC builds upon the foundational principles of RPC, enhancing and expanding its capabilities for the modern digital landscape.

In a way, gRPC makes procedure calls efficient, faster, and more secure. It utilizes HTTP/2 as its foundational transport protocol, allowing several data streams to utilize a single TCP connection. Also, it employs Protocol Buffers (Protobuf) as its interface definition language (IDL), offering strong typing and supporting code generation across multiple languages.

GraphQL vs gRPC: A comparison in 2024

With distinct advantages and features, GraphQL and gRPC influence key factors like ease of development, data transfer, efficiency, performance, scalability, and compatibility. In this section, we go through the practical applications and considerations of each.

Message FormatJSON or XMLBinary encoding
Readability Human-readableNon-human readable
CachingChallengingLacks support 
Data FetchingReturns specific dataReturns additional data
ScalabilityRequires strategyExcellently suited
Learning CurveHardMedium
Community SupportExtensive resourcesFew resources


gRPC is known for exceptional speed due to its use of HTTP/2 for transport and Protocol Buffers for serialization, providing compact data formats and fast encoding/decoding. This makes gRPC an optimal choice for high-performance API development, particularly in server-to-server communications.

On the other hand, GraphQL focuses on efficient data fetching from the client's perspective, allowing precise selection of data, which can reduce over-fetching. However, it typically operates over HTTP/1.1 and doesn't inherently optimize for binary data formats like gRPC.

This ensures efficiency by transferring only the data requested by the client, contributing to its fast performance.

Message Format

This is one of the greatest differences between GraphQL and gRPC.

gRPC employs Protocol Buffers, or Protobuf, to convert data into a compact binary format. This binary encoding reduces the size of messages, thereby accelerating their transmission. This is especially beneficial for applications requiring rapid data transfer.

GraphQL typically employs JSON or XML formats for data transfer. These formats, which are more verbose compared to the binary serialization used by gRPC, result in larger message sizes. However, the use of JSON or XML offers a more explicit structure, enhancing readability and accessibility of the data.

Human Readability and Debugging

gRPC’s binary format, while efficient, is not human-readable. This necessitates additional tooling for debugging and analyzing payloads.

In contrast, GraphQL responds in JSON format, which is human-readable and easier to debug directly, enhancing developer experience.


gRPC lacks native caching support, often requiring a custom middleware layer for caching responses. This additional layer can handle the storage and retrieval of previously fetched data, improving performance by reducing the need for repeated data retrieval operations.

On the other hand, GraphQL's default use of the POST method for queries introduces challenges for caching, as POST requests do not utilize standard HTTP caching techniques. To enhance performance, switching to GET requests for suitable queries might be necessary. Options for using GET in GraphQL include placing the operation in a query parameter for shorter operations, utilizing build-time persisted queries mainly with private APIs, and employing automatic persisted queries.

Data Fetching

gRPC may return additional data unless the API is specifically tailored with new endpoints or filters. This can lead to inefficiencies as unnecessary data is transmitted over the network, potentially impacting performance and increasing bandwidth usage.

In contrast, GraphQL provides a more granular approach to data fetching. It allows clients to specify exactly what data they require, ensuring that only the necessary information is retrieved. This capability not only minimizes bandwidth consumption by avoiding over-fetching but also enhances the responsiveness of applications.


gRPC is excellently suited for scalable, performance-oriented API construction, such as in distributed systems, microservices, and real-time applications.

For GraphQL, scalability requires strategic handling of query complexity, effective caching, and backend performance optimization. Employing a microservices architecture and robust monitoring can aid in scalability as applications expand.

Learning Curve

gRPC provides quick development through code generation features, supporting multiple programming languages. However, the initial setup and use of Protocol Buffers can present a steep learning curve. The detailed configuration and management of data schemas in gRPC require a deep understanding of its architecture and serialization mechanisms, which can be challenging for new users.

GraphQL also has a notable learning curve, largely due to the intricacies of its query language and the need for precise schema definitions. Understanding how to effectively design and implement schemas that cater to specific data requirements is essential. Additionally, mastering GraphQL’s query language is crucial for leveraging its full capabilities, particularly its powerful data fetching and manipulation features. These aspects make it necessary for developers to invest significant time in learning and experimenting with GraphQL to fully utilize its benefits in their applications.

Community Support

Backed by Google, ensuring reliability and continued development. The gRPC community, though active and supported by major tech entities, might have fewer resources specifically for gRPC-Web compared to GraphQL.

Since its inception, GraphQL has experienced swift growth in community and adoption, supported by an extensive array of resources, libraries, and tools, facilitating easier implementation and learning for new adopters.

Use Cases for gRPC in 2024

Now that we have enlisted the similarities and differences between these two API types here are six use cases for gRPC in 2024.

From banking systems to real-time collaboration tools, these examples highlight how gRPC can be leveraged to enhance system communication, streamline processes, and improve the scalability of applications in a connected and distributed world.

  1. Banking System: Consider a banking system that requires highly reliable and type-safe communication between its microservices, like transaction processing, user authentication, and account management. gRPC's strong type safety and clearly defined service contracts make it ideal, ensuring data integrity and consistency across services.
  2. IoT Applications: In an IoT (Internet of Things) application where devices need to send sensor data to the server efficiently, gRPC's use of Protocol Buffers ensures that the data is compact and fast to transmit, which is crucial for devices with limited bandwidth and power.
  3. Online gaming platform: An online gaming platform where low latency is critical for real-time player interactions would benefit from gRPC's use of HTTP/2, which reduces latency through features like multiplexing and server push.
  4. E-commerce: In a microservices architecture for an e-commerce platform, where different services handle inventory, orders, and customer profiles, gRPC's performance and efficient communication protocol support scaling each service independently based on demand.
  5. Financial institutions: A financial institution looking to modernize its infrastructure without disrupting existing COBOL systems. gRPC can facilitate communication between new microservices and the legacy system by defining clear, type-safe interfaces that bridge the old and new technologies.
  6. Real-time collaboration tools: A startup developing a real-time collaboration tool might choose gRPC for its performance benefits. While they may find gRPC's documentation and community support sufficient for common use cases, they might need to invest more effort in finding solutions for niche problems or advanced features.
Use Cases for gRPC in 2024

Use Cases for GraphQL in 2024

Moving into 2024, the adaptability and precision of GraphQL make it an excellent choice for various complex data interaction needs. Here, we will delve into six key use cases where GraphQL's unique features can significantly enhance application functionality and user experience.

  1. Social Media: Imagine a social media platform where the front end requires various types of data (posts, user profiles, notifications) in different components. GraphQL allows the front-end to query precisely what's needed for each component in a single request, simplifying the development and reducing the need for back-and-forth between front-end and back-end teams.
  2. Mobile news: For a mobile news application that needs to adapt to various network conditions and device capabilities, GraphQL allows the app to request only the essential data (like headlines and summaries on a slow connection), optimizing data transfer and improving user experience.
  3. CMS: A content management system (CMS) where administrators can customize dashboards with widgets of varying data needs. GraphQL ensures that each dashboard only fetches the data required for its specific widgets, minimizing the load on the server and keeping the interface responsive.
  4. Multi-functional educational platform: A large-scale, multi-functional educational platform that integrates courses, forums, and student profiles. As the platform grows, GraphQL's ability to precisely query data reduces unnecessary load, while its schema stitching capability allows for seamless integration of new services.
  5. Travel Booking Portal: A travel booking portal that aggregates data from various legacy systems like hotel reservations, flight bookings, and car rentals. GraphQL can unify these data sources, providing a single API endpoint that simplifies development and enhances the user experience by abstracting the complexity of backend systems.
  6. E-commerce: An e-commerce company revamping its website might adopt GraphQL to leverage its strong community support. They can quickly find best practices, pre-built libraries, and tools to accelerate development, benefit from community advice on optimizing queries, and easily integrate with a wide range of third-party services.
Use Cases for GraphQL in 2024

In the end, it’s important to remember that there’s no universal API solution. The choice to go for GraphQL or gRPC is totally dependent on your project’s needs.

gRPC is ideal for scenarios requiring high-performance communication, such as microservices architectures where services are often written in different programming languages.

On the other hand, GraphQL excels in flexible data retrieval, making it perfect for applications with intricate data needs, like e-commerce platforms and content management systems. It's particularly beneficial for applications with multiple frontend clients (e.g., web and iOS), each with specific data requirements.

If you want a deeper understanding of APIs, architectures, and their implementation, visit our full guide on Modern API Deployment and Integration.


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