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GraphQL Subscriptions

GraphQL subscriptions are a powerful feature of the GraphQL specification that allows clients to receive real-time updates from a GraphQL server. This allows applications to maintain up-to-date data without the need for frequent polling or other mechanisms to check for changes.

To use GraphQL subscriptions, a client sends a subscription query to the server, which specifies the data that the client wants to receive updates for. The server then sends updates to the client whenever the specified data changes, using a persistent connection. This allows the client to receive updates in real-time, without the need for additional requests.

Advantages of using GraphQL subscriptions

There are several advantages to using GraphQL subscriptions. One of the biggest advantages is the ability to receive updates in real-time, which can improve the user experience and make applications more responsive. Additionally, subscriptions can reduce the amount of network traffic and the number of requests that are required, which can improve performance and scalability.

Another advantage of GraphQL subscriptions is the ability to subscribe to specific data changes, rather than receiving a full snapshot of data whenever it changes. This allows clients to only receive the data that they are interested in, which can improve efficiency and reduce the amount of data that needs to be transmitted.

How to use GraphQL subscriptions

To use GraphQL subscriptions, a GraphQL server must support the Subscription type and implement the necessary resolvers and infrastructure to handle subscriptions. On the client side, a GraphQL client library or framework must support subscriptions and provide an API for subscribing to data changes.

For example, to implement a subscription on the server side using Apollo Server, you can define a subscription type and resolver in your GraphQL schema:

type Subscription {
  newMessage: Message

type Query {
  messages: [Message]

type Message {
  id: ID!
  text: String!
const resolvers = {
  Subscription: {
    newMessage: {
      subscribe: () => pubsub.asyncIterator(NEW_MESSAGE_TOPIC)

On the client side, you can use the useSubscription hook in Apollo Client to subscribe to the newMessage subscription:

const { data, loading, error } = useSubscription(NEW_MESSAGE_SUBSCRIPTION)
if (loading) return <p>Loading...</p>
if (error) return <p>Error: {error.message}</p>

const { newMessage } = data
return <p>New message: {newMessage.text}</p>

It's worth noting that GraphQL subscriptions are not supported by all GraphQL servers and client libraries or frameworks. Not all implementations of GraphQL include support for subscriptions, so it's important to check the documentation for the specific tools and technologies you are using to see if subscriptions are supported.

Additionally, implementing and using GraphQL subscriptions can be more complex than other features of GraphQL, such as queries and mutations. Subscriptions require the use of a persistent connection between the client and the server, which can add complexity and require additional infrastructure and resources.

Despite these challenges, many developers and organizations have found that the benefits of using GraphQL subscriptions outweigh the drawbacks. By providing a way to receive real-time updates from a GraphQL server, subscriptions can improve the performance and user experience of applications, and can make it easier to build responsive and efficient systems.


GraphQL subscriptions are a useful and powerful feature that can improve the performance, scalability, and user experience of applications. By allowing clients to receive updates in real-time, subscriptions can make applications more responsive and efficient, and can help reduce the amount of network traffic and the number of requests that are required.

If you're interested in learning more about GraphQL subscriptions, you can check out the GraphQL specification and the documentation for the specific tools and technologies you are using. There are also many online resources and tutorials available that can provide additional information and guidance on using GraphQL subscriptions.