A Comprehensive Guide to SOAP, REST & GraphQL Web Protocols

While building an API, developers generally consider two of the most common paradigms, SOAP and REST. Although these are often considered to be functionally similar, the inherent technologies are completely different, even when compared on a granular basis. Besides, you have GraphQL, a query language that comes handy while developing APIs. The reputed software developers closely collaborate with business firms while developing dedicated mobile and web apps for them, integrating these paradigms strategically in the process.

However, you should note that REST is an architectural design, while SOAP is a protocol. Just like a REST API can utilize HTTP, it can use the SOAP protocol. Evidently, the package type is supposed to be different and the developers incorporate these in different situations.

It had been long, that the world of API had been relying on REST and SOAP. Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) was invented in 1998, while Representational State Transfer (REST) came into existence in 2000. These two have dominated application programming interfaces for almost one and a half decades. In 2015, GraphQL was released by Facebook. This has been a new query language for data, often considered to be a competitive alternative to SOAP and REST.

Here, you will get a detailed insight into the three pillars of API that are currently being used.

Basics of REST, SOAP and GraphQL

Although all the three paradigms are a part of API architecture, they have got some innate differences. GraphQL, as the name suggests with the letters ‘QL’ in it, is a query language. SOAP and REST, as mentioned, are a protocol and an architectural style, respectively.


SOAP operates with POST and GET as two of its basic functions. GET retrieves data from servers, while the developers use post to modify data or add extra information.


REST requests to the Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) to alter the condition of the corresponding course.

3. GraphQL

GraphQL is used to leverage two types of requests, including mutations that change data and queries that retrieve data from server.

The conceptual difference lies in the very nature of their operations. While the operations of SOAP represent logic, those of GraphQL and REST represent data resources.

What does an API mean?

An API, in the simplest form, is a piece of software plugging the services and data of one application to another, permitting it to access only certain parts of the server. As a result, two different software is able to communicate. It eases up the process of sharing data sets, streamlining IT architectures and performing related activities.


The approach in handling the app load forms the key difference between REST and SOAP. In SOAP, the XML data format is used. In terms of response side and request, it is too verbose. Within the SOAP architecture, an enormous amount of data is transferred. As a result, it calls for more resources, which may slow down the process of communication.

As mobile technologies have been refined, this method has proven to be inefficient, as it hinders the performance of the software. On the other hand, REST can handle the endpoint requests efficiently. As a result, this protocol has proven to be a better choice among developers who work on open API architectures.

Again, SOAP supports only XML as data format. On the other hand, REST is programmed to process HTML, JSON and XML.

REST vs GraphQL

Data Migration

Although REST has been a much-wanted breakthrough in the domain of API-based architecture, it is yet to fulfil the aspirations of the developers. After Facebooks started hunting for an alternative in collecting date from their server, the experts were striving to solve the hassles of over-fetching and under-fetching with the existing API protocols. In SOAP or REST, when a developer requested for certain data, all the related properties were obtained. Evidently, all these details proved to be unnecessary. For instance, when you wanted to know the prices of a certain list of products, their images and descriptions would also be obtained.

The aim of GraphQL is to resolve this issue. While making any query with GraphQL, it is possible to specify exactly what is needed. The data definition is shifted to the client side. However, the data remains defined on the side of the server in REST.

While opting for an API protocol, the developers also need to consider data caching. You need not send complete requests and responses, when the data remains cached from requests made previously. The caching mechanism of HTML is used by the REST API, providing satisfactory results. However, in GraphQL, you will have no inbuilt caching mechanism and it calls for additional systems on the client side.

SOAP vs GraphQL

In the innovations of API architecture, GraphQL has been the latest inclusions. It comes with the best features of both REST and SOAP. Comparing SOAP and GraphQL, it has been found that single URL endpoints are used by both to modify or fetch data. GraphQL reduces the network payload, as it is more lightweight as compared to SOAP. Besides, it is similar to SOAP in terms of powerful data typing. The type of data is declared explicitly by both the protocols, ensuring a more seamless communication between two or more software.

However, both SOAP and GraphQL lacks great caching features. The caching mechanisms are absent in both of these, which makes it necessary for them to rely on external tools.

While developing customized software, you have got no universal solution in choosing the right protocol. Business firms, while developing web API architecture, count on experienced mobile app developers, who determine the paradigms, based on individual projects. Besides, different API protocols can be combined to optimize the results. For developing a fool-proof API for upcoming projects, reach out to the established web app developers for a comprehensive support.

Nisarg Mehta - CEO Techtic Solutions Nisarg Mehta

Nisarg Mehta, CEO & Chairman of Techtic Solutions, is the vision of the company. Nisarg is active in operations in his daily routine as he is one of the key decision makers in terms of technological advancements of the company. He is a friendly leader with hardworking, motivating, visionary and passionate personality.

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