Originally published July 19, 2019
In 2011, Facebook had begun to focus its efforts on mobile development. Mobile phones did not have access to reliable, high bandwidth connections, and the Facebook engineering team needed to find a solution to improve the request latency between mobile clients and the backend Facebook infrastructure.
One source of latency was recursive data fetching. If a mobile application client made a request to the backend for newsfeed, the backend API would return the newsfeed, but some components of that feed would require additional requests to the backend. In practice, this might result in a newsfeed loading partially on a phone, but having a delayed loading time for the comments of a newsfeed item.
GraphQL is a solution that came out of this problem of recursive data fetching. A GraphQL server provides middleware to aggregate all of the necessary information to serve a complete request. GraphQL connects to backend data sources and federates the frontend request across these different data sources.
GraphQL was open sourced in 2015, and has found many use cases in addition to simplifying backend data fetching for mobile clients. Today, GraphQL is used by PayPal, Shopify, Twitter, and hundreds of other companies.
Lee Byron is the co-creator of GraphQL and he joins the show to tell the story of GraphQL, and how it fit into Facebook’s shift to mobile.
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