Facebook’s GraphQL gets its own open-source foundation

GraphQL, the Facebook-incubated data query language, is moving into its own open-source foundation. Like so many other similar open-source foundations, the aptly named GraphQL Foundation will be hosted by the Linux Foundation.

Facebook announced GraphQL back in 2012 and open sourced it in 2015. Today, it’s being used by companies that range from Airbnb to Audi, GitHub, Netflix, Shopify, Twitter and The New York Times. At Facebook itself, the GraphQL API powers billions of API calls every day. At its core, GraphQL is basically a language for querying databases from client-side applications and a set of specifications for how the API on the backend should present this data to the client. It presents an alternative to REST-based APIs and promises to offer developers more flexibility and the ability to write faster and more secure applications. Virtually every major programming language now supports it through a variety of libraries.

“GraphQL has redefined how developers work with APIs and client-server interactions. We look forward to working with the GraphQL community to become an independent foundation, draft their governance and continue to foster the growth and adoption of GraphQL,” said Chris Aniszczyk, vice president of Developer Relations at the Linux Foundation.

As Aniszczyk noted, the new foundation will have an open governance model, similar to that of other Linux Foundation projects. The exact details are still a work in progress, though. The list of founding members is also still in flux, but for now, it includes Airbnb, Apollo, Coursera, Elementl, Facebook, GitHub, Hasura, Prisma, Shopify and Twitter.

“We are thrilled to welcome the GraphQL Foundation into the Linux Foundation,” said Jim Zemlin, the executive director of the Linux Foundation. “This advancement is important because it allows for long-term support and accelerated growth of this essential and groundbreaking technology that is changing the approach to API design for cloud-connected applications in any language.”

For now, the founding members expect that the GraphQL specificationGraphQL.js reference implementation, DataLoader library and GraphiQL developer tool will become the core technical projects of the foundation, but that, too, could still change.

At this point, the Linux Foundation is essentially a foundation for foundations. It provides support for dozens of projects now, with Linux itself being just one of those. Those other foundations include the likes of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (the home of Kubernetes), the Cloud Foundry Foundation, Automotive Grade Linux, the JS Foundation (which is about to merge with the Node.js Foundation) and more.

As more large companies release open-source projects, those projects that become popular often get to the point where having a single company govern the project’s life cycle is neither feasible nor in the best interest of the community. Spinnaker, the continuous delivery platform backed by Netflix and Google, recently reached this point, for example. Surely, GraphQL is also now at this point, where it’s stable and has wide adoption but could benefit from being separated from the mothership and get its own vendor-neutral foundation.