JSON-API (thru ja_serializer) OR GraphQL (thru Absinthe)?

Hello everyone!

Somebody told me that ja_serializer hasn’t had any release for sometime already because of the popularity of GraphQL.

I was wondering if I can ask everyone what you have adopted with regards to database access layer at the backend. Does Absinthe-GraphQL covers everything and more than JSON-API?

Would love to hear your valuable opinions!

Rather than compare ja_serializer (which received a release in Feb of this year, btw) and absinthe, allow me to list what I view are the pros of GraphQL over a JSON API, that I listed on an internal company chat where I work:

Those benefits are:

  • Type safety — you could write a mock frontend in TypeScript, send those types to a backender writing GraphQL and they can very easily build an API to match.
  • You can limit the fields you request to just the ones important to you now
  • Predictability in how the responses are returned — the schema tells you exactly what shape you can expect to get back
  • Documentation is automatically generated through introspecting the schema.
  • Excellent tooling (look at GitHub’s GraphQL explorer!!)
  • Clients and servers share the exact same schema, automatically
  • and my favourite “excuse”: GraphQL Code, on both the server and client side is much clearer to understand than bespoke JSON API solutions — particularly when it comes down to how fields are resolved, especially for associated data

For all the above reasons, I think GraphQL has “won”.

To speak to the packages themselves: I’ve always found ja_serializer a bit… clumsy to use. I feel like it’s forcing me to do things the ja_serializer way, rather than allowing for any sort of flexibility.

To be honest, I don’t use absinthe in my day-to-day work, but I have used it for a pet project (or two) in the past and much prefer its flexibility. I can design GraphQL APIs to return things in exactly the shape I want.

What really wins for me though is the ability to write + run queries in an app such as GraphQL Playground, and then to copy + paste these queries verbatim into my frontend code.

If I was to choose today, the choice would be clear. GraphQL (and by extension, Absinthe) has won.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the wonderful Craft GraphQL APIs in Elixir with Absinthe book, written by the maintainers of Absinthe themselves! I would recommend this as the very next thing to read after this post.

Good luck on your GraphQL journey!


I’ll just add, you really only want to use these if you have a client library that supports it. If you’re using EmberData, then you may choose JSON API, because it’s the path of least resistance. If you’re using pretty much anything else, you’ll have a better experience with GraphQL.

It’s worth noting, the client libraries for both of these are pretty good in javascript. In other languages, the client libraries aren’t so great. If you’re doing server to server communication, I’d recommend a plain old REST API.


Have you had experience with ember-apollo-client?

I went to an ember meetup once where someone gave a talk about it. They seemed pretty happy with it. I think there are some things you forego when using it with ember, but I couldn’t give you the specifics.

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By the way apologies to the concerned for me saying that there hasn’t been a release for ja_serializer for sometime. I was wrong