Image for post
Image for post

GraphiQL: GraphQL’s Killer App

Clay Allsopp
Jan 12, 2016 · 3 min read

Maybe you haven’t heard of . It’s a query language for front-end engineers to retrieve data from the back-end. It might be helpful to think of GraphQL as an alternative to REST or .

So why does GraphQL matter? Why ditch known quantities like REST, SOAP, or whatever homegrown system you’re using?

The specification’s has some good points, but let me appeal to you in a different way: if you use GraphQL, you can use . And GraphiQL is a delight.

If you want to play around with GraphiQL (note the i, “graphical”) right now, take it for a spin on .


Exploring and debugging APIs isn’t very fun. On one end of the spectrum we have applications like and , and on the other end we have cURL and wget. If you’re lucky you can use specialized tools like .

These reduce boilerplate and improve portability, but they are ignorant to the semantics of your data. If you send the wrong type of argument, or want to explore what options are available, you have to rely on the API to be descriptive and helpful — usually the last thing on the team’s TODO list.

But if your server speaks GraphQL, you can just use GraphiQL.


Documentation is a of GraphQL, and GraphiQL leverages it. The right-hand pane exists for you to explore the possible queries, mutations, fields, their types, if they’re required, the works. Even if your server doesn’t implement human-composed descriptions, you will always be able to explore the graph of possibilities.

Image for post
Image for post

And just as GraphQL , so does GraphiQL — in a sense. GraphiQL will automatically remove deprecated fields from the documentation. No more discovering fantastic endpoints that disappear a month later.


You don’t even have to read the documentation to discover your API. GraphiQL supports debugging as-you-type, giving hints and pointing out errors.

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post

If you’re working on a GraphQL query with variables, you can use the query variables pane to store your current work.

Image for post
Image for post

JSON Viewer

GraphQL responses don’t have to be JSON, but . GraphiQL comes with a JSON viewer with all the niceties you’d expect: code folding, automatic indentation, copy support, and read-only so you won’t accidentally delete or edit.

Image for post
Image for post


“Virality” is built into GraphiQL. When you edit a query, the URL updates immediately. Everything is preserved — whitespace, comments, even invalid queries.

Image for post
Image for post
See the “HELLO!” in the URL?

It’s intuitive to share with your colleagues or publicly — find something interesting? Send the URL. Slower-than-expected or buggy query? Add a link to the bug report.

For all these reasons, I’m moving more of my APIs to GraphQL — just so I can use GraphiQL. API is one example.

I’m excited for even more tooling built with GraphQL’s introspection features. I used to believe that was the killer app for GraphQL, but now I think that GraphiQL is the Real McCoy.

The GraphQLHub

Writing about GraphQL from

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store