GraphQL Over HTTP

Note Stage 1: Proposal This spec is under active development, and not ready for implementations yet. For more information, please see the Roadmap or how to get involved. You can find our community in the #graphql-over-http channel on the GraphQL Foundation Discord.

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1GraphQL over HTTP

Introduction

This specification details how GraphQL should be served and consumed over HTTP in order to maximize interoperability between clients, servers and tools. This specification does not override or replace the GraphQL specification, it extends it to cover the topic of serving GraphQL services over HTTP. If any statement or algorithm in this specification appears to conflict with the GraphQL specification, the behavior detailed in the GraphQL specification should be used.

The GraphQL specification deliberately does not specify the transport layer, however HTTP is the most common choice when serving GraphQL to remote clients due to its ubiquity.

Previous to this specification, the article Serving over HTTP (WayBack Machine entry, 1st June 2022) on the graphql.org website served as guidance, and leading implementations on both client and server have mostly upheld those best practices and thus established a de-facto standard that is commonly used throughout the ecosystem. This specification aims to codify and expand on this work.

Copyright notice

Copyright © 2022-present, GraphQL contributors

THESE MATERIALS ARE PROVIDED “AS IS”. The parties expressly disclaim any warranties (express, implied, or otherwise), including implied warranties of merchantability, non-infringement, fitness for a particular purpose, or title, related to the materials. The entire risk as to implementing or otherwise using the materials is assumed by the implementer and user. IN NO EVENT WILL THE PARTIES BE LIABLE TO ANY OTHER PARTY FOR LOST PROFITS OR ANY FORM OF INDIRECT, SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES OF ANY CHARACTER FROM ANY CAUSES OF ACTION OF ANY KIND WITH RESPECT TO THIS DELIVERABLE OR ITS GOVERNING AGREEMENT, WHETHER BASED ON BREACH OF CONTRACT, TORT (INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE), OR OTHERWISE, AND WHETHER OR NOT THE OTHER MEMBER HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE.

Conformance

A conforming implementation of GraphQL over HTTP must fulfill all normative requirements. Conformance requirements are described in this document via both descriptive assertions and key words with clearly defined meanings.

The key words “MUST”, “MUST NOT”, “REQUIRED”, “SHALL”, “SHALL NOT”, “SHOULD”, “SHOULD NOT”, “RECOMMENDED”, “MAY”, and “OPTIONAL” in the normative portions of this document are to be interpreted as described in IETF RFC 2119. These key words may appear in lowercase and still retain their meaning unless explicitly declared as non-normative.

A conforming implementation of GraphQL over HTTP may provide additional functionality, but must not where explicitly disallowed or would otherwise result in non-conformance.

Non-Normative Portions

All contents of this document are normative except portions explicitly declared as non-normative.

Examples in this document are non-normative, and are presented to aid understanding of introduced concepts and the behavior of normative portions of the specification. Examples are either introduced explicitly in prose (e.g. “for example”) or are set apart in example or counter-example blocks, like this:

Example № 1This is an example of a non-normative example.
Counter Example № 2This is an example of a non-normative counter-example.

Notes in this document are non-normative, and are presented to clarify intent, draw attention to potential edge-cases and pit-falls, and answer common questions that arise during implementation. Notes are either introduced explicitly in prose (e.g. “Note: “) or are set apart in a note block, like this:

Note This is an example of a non-normative note.

2Overview

Though the GraphQL specification is transport agnostic, this GraphQL over HTTP specification aims to map GraphQL’s semantics to their HTTP equivalents, enabling us to combine the full advantages of GraphQL with the rich feature set of HTTP.

GraphQL queries and mutations naturally mirror the request/response message model used in HTTP, allowing us to provide a GraphQL request in an HTTP request and a GraphQL response in an HTTP response.

In this document, the term server refers to a GraphQL over HTTP Specification compliant HTTP server unless the context indicates otherwise.

The role of a server is to provide a client access to one or more GraphQL services over HTTP. A server is not a GraphQL service, it is a GraphQL service host.

In this document, the term client refers to a GraphQL over HTTP Specification compliant HTTP client unless the context indicates otherwise.

The role of a client is to issue HTTP requests to a server in order to interact with a GraphQL service.

Note GraphQL Subscriptions are beyond the scope of this specification at this time.

3URL

A server MUST enable GraphQL requests to one or more GraphQL schemas.

Each GraphQL schema a server provides MUST be served via one or more URLs.

A server MUST NOT require the client to use different URLs for different GraphQL query and mutation requests to the same GraphQL schema.

The GraphQL schema available via a single URL MAY be different for different clients. For example, alpha testers or authenticated users may have access to a schema with additional fields.

A server MAY forbid individual requests by a client to any endpoint for any reason, for example to require authentication or payment; when doing so it SHOULD use the relevant 4xx or 5xx status code. This decision SHOULD NOT be based on the contents of a well formed GraphQL request.

Note The server should not make authorization decisions based on any part of the GraphQL request; these decisions should be made by the GraphQL schema during GraphQL’s ExecuteRequest(), allowing for a partial response to be generated.

Server URLs which enable GraphQL requests MAY also be used for other purposes, as long as they don’t conflict with the server’s responsibility to handle GraphQL requests.

It is RECOMMENDED to end the path component of the URL with /graphql, for example:

Example № 3http://example.com/graphql
Example № 4http://product.example.com/graphql
Example № 5http://example.com/product/graphql

4Serialization Format

The GraphQL specification allows for many serialization formats to be implemented. Servers and clients MUST support JSON and MAY support other, additional serialization formats.

Note Allowing other media types, particularly on requests, can be insecure.

For consistency and ease of notation, examples of the response are given in JSON throughout this specification.

4.1Media Types

The following are the officially recognized GraphQL media types to designate using the JSON encoding for GraphQL requests:

Name Description
application/json Standard type for GraphQL JSON requests

And for a GraphQL response:

Name Description
application/graphql-response+json The preferred type for server responses; better HTTP compatibility
application/json An alternative type for responses (to support legacy clients)

For details of the shapes of these JSON payloads, please see Request and Response.

If the media type in a Content-Type or Accept header includes encoding information, then the encoding MUST be utf-8 (e.g. Content-Type: application/graphql-response+json; charset=utf-8). If encoding information is not included then utf-8 MUST be assumed.

5Request

A server MUST accept POST requests, and MAY accept other HTTP methods, such as GET.

5.1Request Parameters

A GraphQL-over-HTTP request is formed of the following parameters:

  • query - A Document containing GraphQL Operations and Fragments to execute.
  • operationName - (Optional): The name of the Operation in the Document to execute.
  • variables - (Optional): Values for any Variables defined by the Operation.
  • extensions - (Optional): This entry is reserved for implementors to extend the protocol however they see fit.
Note When comparing GraphQL-over-HTTP request against the term “request” in the GraphQL specification you should note the GraphQL schema and “initial value” are not included in the GraphQL-over-HTTP request; they are handled by the server based on the URL used.
Note Be aware that query is a misleading parameter name as its value is a string describing one or more operations, each of which may be a query or mutation. A better name would have been document, but the term query is well established.
Note Depending on the serialization format used, values of the aforementioned parameters can be encoded differently but their names and semantics must stay the same.
Note Specifying null in JSON (or equivalent values in other formats) as values for optional request parameters is equivalent to not specifying them at all.
Note Each of the variables and extensions parameters, if set, must have a map as their value.

5.2Accept

A client SHOULD indicate the media types that it supports in responses using the Accept HTTP header as specified in RFC7231.

Note If a client does not supply the Accept header then the server may respond with an error, or with any content type it chooses. To ensure your client gets something useful, it should indicate the media types it supports.

If the client supplies an Accept header, the client SHOULD include the media type application/graphql-response+json in the Accept header.

Note From 1st Jan 2025, every server and client must support application/graphql-response+json, so including this in the Accept header should give your client compatibility with any server.

5.2.1Legacy Watershed

Before 2025-01-01T00:00:00Z, if the client supplies an Accept header, the header SHOULD include the application/json media type. After this watershed, this is no longer necessary.

It is RECOMMENDED that a client set the Accept header to application/graphql-response+json; charset=utf-8, application/json; charset=utf-8.

Note This recommended header enables compatibility with legacy servers whilst still leveraging modern features if available in the server.

5.3GET

For HTTP GET requests, the GraphQL request parameters MUST be provided in the query component of the request URL in the application/x-www-form-urlencoded format as specified by WhatWG’s URLSearchParams class.

The query parameter MUST be the string representation of the Source Text of the Document as specified in the Language section of the GraphQL specification.

The operationName, if present, must be a string.

Each of the variables and extensions parameters, if used, MUST be represented as a URL-encoded JSON string.

The operationName parameter, if supplied and not the empty string, represents the name of the operation to be executed within the query.

Setting the value of the operationName parameter to the empty string is equivalent to omitting the operationName parameter.

Note By the above, operationName=null represents an operation with the name "null" (such as query null { __typename }). If a literal null is desired, either omit operationName or set it to the empty string.

5.3.1Example

If we wanted to execute the following GraphQL query:

Example № 6query($id: ID!){user(id:$id){name}}

With the following query variables:

Example № 7{"id":"QVBJcy5ndXJ1"}

This request could be sent via an HTTP GET as follows:

Example № 8http://example.com/graphql?query=query(%24id%3A%20ID!)%7Buser(id%3A%24id)%7Bname%7D%7D&variables=%7B%22id%22%3A%22QVBJcy5ndXJ1%22%7D

GET requests MUST NOT be used for executing mutation operations. If the values of query and operationName indicate that a mutation operation is to be executed, the server MUST respond with error status code 405 (Method Not Allowed) and halt execution. This restriction is necessary to conform with the long-established semantics of safe methods within HTTP.

5.4POST

A GraphQL POST request instructs the server to perform a query or mutation operation. A GraphQL POST request MUST have a body which contains values of the request parameters encoded in one of the officially recognized GraphQL media types, or another media type supported by the server.

A client MUST indicate the media type of a request body using the Content-Type header as specified in RFC7231.

A server MUST support POST requests encoded with the application/json media type (as indicated by the Content-Type header).

If the client does not supply a Content-Type header with a POST request, the server SHOULD reject the request using the appropriate 4xx status code.

Note Rejecting such requests encourages clients to supply a Content-Type header with every POST request. A server has the option to assume any media type they wish when none is supplied, with the understanding that parsing the request may fail.

A server MAY support POST requests encoded with and/or accepting other media types.

If a client does not know the media types the server supports then it SHOULD encode the request body in JSON (i.e. with Content-Type: application/json).

Note Request encoding with media type application/json is supported by every compliant server.

5.4.1JSON Encoding

When encoded in JSON, a GraphQL-over-HTTP request is a JSON object (map), with the properties specified by the GraphQL-over-HTTP request:

  • query - the string representation of the Source Text of the Document as specified in the Language section of the GraphQL specification.
  • operationName - an optional string
  • variables - an optional object (map), the keys of which are the variable names and the values of which are the variable values
  • extensions - an optional object (map)

5.4.2Example

If we wanted to execute the following GraphQL query:

Example № 9query ($id: ID!) {
  user(id: $id) {
    name
  }
}

With the following query variables:

Example № 10{
  "id": "QVBJcy5ndXJ1"
}

This request could be sent via an HTTP POST to the relevant URL using the JSON encoding with the headers:

Example № 11Content-Type: application/json
Accept: application/graphql-response+json

And the body:

Example № 12{
  "query": "query ($id: ID!) {\n  user(id: $id) {\n    name\n  }\n}",
  "variables": {
    "id": "QVBJcy5ndXJ1"
  }
}

6Response

When a server receives a well-formed GraphQL-over-HTTP request, it must return a well‐formed GraphQL response. The server’s response describes the result of validating and executing the requested operation if successful, and describes any errors encountered during the request.

A server must comply with RFC7231.

6.1Body

The body of the server’s response MUST follow the requirements for a GraphQL response, encoded directly in the chosen media type.

A server MUST indicate the media type of the response with a Content-Type header.

If an Accept header is provided, the server MUST respect the given Accept header and attempt to encode the response in the highest priority media type listed that is supported by the server.

In alignment with the HTTP 1.1 Accept specification, when a client does not include at least one supported media type in the Accept HTTP header, the server MUST either:

  1. Disregard the Accept header and respond with the default media type of application/json, specifying this in the Content-Type header; OR
  2. Respond with a 406 Not Acceptable status code and stop processing the request.

A server MUST support requests which accept the application/json media type (as indicated by the Accept header).

A server SHOULD support requests which accept the application/graphql-response+json media type (as indicated by the Accept header).

Note Prior to this specification, the media type application/json was in wide use for the HTTP response payload type. Unfortunately this means clients cannot trust responses from the server that do not use an HTTP 2xx status code (since these replies may come from non-compliant HTTP servers or proxies somewhere in the request chain). For this reason, this specification introduces the application/graphql-response+json media type on responses; however, to give existing servers time to move over, it is not required to be supported until 1st January 2025.

6.1.1Legacy watershed

From 1st January 2025 (2025-01-01T00:00:00Z), a server MUST support requests which accept the application/graphql-response+json media type (as indicated by the Accept header).

Before 1st January 2025 (2025-01-01T00:00:00Z), if the client does not supply an Accept header, the server SHOULD treat the request as if it had Accept: application/json. From 1st January 2025 (2025-01-01T00:00:00Z), if the client does not supply an Accept header, the server SHOULD treat the request as if it had Accept: application/graphql-response+json.

Note This default is in place to maintain compatibility with legacy clients.

6.2Validation

Validation of a well-formed GraphQL-over-HTTP request SHOULD apply all the validation rules specified by the GraphQL specification.

The server MAY, at its discretion, apply additional validation rules.

6.3Execution

Execution of a GraphQL-over-HTTP request follows GraphQL’s ExecuteRequest() algorithm.

6.4Status Codes

In case of errors that completely prevent the generation of a well-formed GraphQL response, the server SHOULD respond with the appropriate status code depending on the concrete error condition.

Note Typically this will be the 400 (Bad Request) status code.
Note This rule is “should” to maintain compatibility with legacy servers which can return 200 status codes even when this type of error occurs.

Otherwise, the status codes depends on the media type with which the GraphQL response will be served:

6.4.1application/json

This section only applies when the response body is to use the application/json media type.

The server SHOULD use the 200 status code, independent of any GraphQL request error or GraphQL field error raised.

Note A status code in the 4xx or 5xx ranges or status code 203 (and maybe others) could originate from intermediary servers; since the client cannot determine if an application/json response with arbitrary status code is a well-formed GraphQL response (because it cannot trust the source) the server must use 200 status code to guarantee to the client that the response has not been generated or modified by an intermediary.

If the GraphQL response contains a non-null data entry then the server MUST use the 200 status code.

Note This indicates that no GraphQL request error was raised, though one or more GraphQL field error may have been raised this is still a successful execution – see “partial response” in the GraphQL specification.

The server SHOULD NOT use a 4xx or 5xx status code.

Note For compatibility with legacy servers, this specification allows the use of 4xx or 5xx status codes for failed requests where the response uses the application/json media type, but it is strongly discouraged. To use 4xx and 5xx status codes, please use the application/graphql-response+json media type.

6.4.2application/graphql-response+json

This section only applies when the response body is to use the application/graphql-response+json media type.

If the GraphQL response contains the data entry and it is not null, then the server MUST reply with a 2xx status code and SHOULD reply with 200 status code.

Note The result of executing a GraphQL operation may contain partial data as well as encountered errors. Errors that happen during execution of the GraphQL operation typically become part of the result, as long as the server is still able to produce a well-formed GraphQL response. There’s currently not an approved HTTP status code to use for a “partial response,” contenders include WebDAV’s status code “207 Multi-Status” and using a custom code such as “247 Partial Success.” IETF RFC2616 Section 6.1.1 states “codes are fully defined in section 10” implying that though more codes are expected to be supported over time, valid codes must be present in this document.

If the GraphQL response contains the data entry and it is null, then the server SHOULD reply with a 2xx status code and it is RECOMMENDED it replies with 200 status code.

Note Using 4xx and 5xx status codes in this situation is not recommended – since no GraphQL request error has occurred it is seen as a “partial response”.

If the GraphQL response does not contain the data entry then the server MUST reply with a 4xx or 5xx status code as appropriate.

Note The GraphQL specification indicates that the only situation in which the GraphQL response does not include the data entry is one in which the errors entry is populated.

If the GraphQL request is invalid (e.g. it is malformed, or does not pass validation) then the server SHOULD reply with 400 status code.

If the client is not permitted to issue the GraphQL request then the server SHOULD reply with 403, 401 or similar appropriate status code.

6.4.2.1Examples

The following examples provide guidance on how to deal with specific error cases when using the application/graphql-response+json media type to encode the response body:

6.4.2.1.1JSON parsing failure

For example a POST request body of NONSENSE or {"query": (note: invalid JSON).

Requests that the server cannot interpret should result in status code 400 (Bad Request).

6.4.2.1.2Invalid parameters

For example a POST request body of {"qeury": "{__typename}"} (note: typo) or {"query": "query Q ($i:Int!) { q(i: $i) }", "variables": [7]} (note: invalid shape for variables).

Requests that do not constitute a well-formed GraphQL-over-HTTP request should result in status code 400 (Bad Request).

6.4.2.1.3Document parsing failure

For example a POST request body of {"query": "{"}.

Requests where the GraphQL document cannot be parsed should result in status code 400 (Bad Request).

6.4.2.1.4Document validation failure

Requests that fail to pass GraphQL validation SHOULD be denied execution with a status code of 400 (Bad Request).

Note In certain circumstances, for example persisted operations that were previously known to be valid, the server MAY attempt execution regardless of validation errors.
Note Validation rules include those specified in the Validation section of the GraphQL specification, and any custom validation rules the server is using (for example: depth limit, complexity limit).
6.4.2.1.5Operation cannot be determined

If GetOperation() raises a GraphQL request error, the server SHOULD NOT execute the request and SHOULD return a status code of 400 (Bad Request).

6.4.2.1.6Variable coercion failure

If CoerceVariableValues() raises a GraphQL request error, the server SHOULD NOT execute the request and SHOULD return a status code of 400 (Bad Request).

6.4.2.1.7Field errors encountered during execution

If the operation is executed and no GraphQL request error is raised then the server SHOULD respond with a status code of 200 (Okay). This is the case even if a GraphQL field error is raised during GraphQL’s ExecuteQuery() or GraphQL’s ExecuteMutation().

<!— When we add support for subscriptions, GraphQL’s MapSourceToResponseEvent() should be added to the above. →

Note The GraphQL specification differentiates field errors from request errors and refers to the situation wherein a GraphQL field error occurs as a partial response; it still indicates successful execution.

6.5Processing the response

If the response uses a non-200 status code and the media type of the response payload is application/json then the client MUST NOT rely on the body to be a well-formed GraphQL response since the source of the response may not be the server but instead some intermediary such as API gateways, proxies, firewalls, etc.

§Index

  1. client
  2. server
  1. 1GraphQL over HTTP
  2. 2Overview
  3. 3URL
  4. 4Serialization Format
    1. 4.1Media Types
  5. 5Request
    1. 5.1Request Parameters
    2. 5.2Accept
      1. 5.2.1Legacy Watershed
    3. 5.3GET
      1. 5.3.1Example
    4. 5.4POST
      1. 5.4.1JSON Encoding
      2. 5.4.2Example
  6. 6Response
    1. 6.1Body
      1. 6.1.1Legacy watershed
    2. 6.2Validation
    3. 6.3Execution
    4. 6.4Status Codes
      1. 6.4.1application/json
      2. 6.4.2application/graphql-response+json
        1. 6.4.2.1Examples
          1. 6.4.2.1.1JSON parsing failure
          2. 6.4.2.1.2Invalid parameters
          3. 6.4.2.1.3Document parsing failure
          4. 6.4.2.1.4Document validation failure
          5. 6.4.2.1.5Operation cannot be determined
          6. 6.4.2.1.6Variable coercion failure
          7. 6.4.2.1.7Field errors encountered during execution
    5. 6.5Processing the response
  7. §Index