⚠ New Class-Based API ⚠

This describes a new API in v1.8.0. Check the upgrade notes for more info.

Interfaces

Interfaces are lists of fields which may be implemented by object types.

An interface has fields, but it’s never actually instantiated. Instead, objects may implement interfaces, which makes them a member of that interface. Also, fields may return interface types. When this happens, the returned object may be any member of that interface.

For example, let’s say a Customer (interface) may be either an Individual (object) or a Company (object). Here’s the structure in the GraphQL Schema Definition Language (SDL):

interface Customer {
  name: String!
  outstandingBalance: Int!
}

type Company implements Customer {
  employees: [Individual!]!
  name: String!
  outstandingBalance: Int!
}

type Individual implements Customer {
  company: Company
  name: String!
  outstandingBalance: Int!
}

Notice that the Customer interface requires two fields, name: String! and outstandingBalance: Int!. Both Company and Individual implement those fields, so they can implement Customer. Their implementation of Customer is made explicit by implements Customer in their definition.

When querying, you can get the fields on an interface:

{
  customers(first: 5) {
    name
    outstandingBalance
  }
}

Whether the objects are Company or Individual, it doesn’t matter – you still get their name and outstandingBalance. If you want some object-specific fields, you can query them with an inline fragment, for example:

{
  customers(first: 5) {
    name
    ... on Individual {
      company { name }
    }
  }
}

This means, “if the customer is an Individual, also get the customer’s company name”.

Interfaces are a good choice whenever a set of objects are used interchangeably, and they have several significant fields in common. When they don’t have fields in common, use a Union instead.

Defining Interface Types

Interfaces are Ruby modules which include GraphQL::Schema::Interface. First, make a base module:

module Types::BaseInterface
  include GraphQL::Schema::Interface
end

Then, include that into each interface:

module Types::RetailItem
  include Types::BaseInterface
  description "Something that can be bought"
  field :price, Types::Price, "How much this item costs", null: false

  def price
    # Optional: provide a special implementation of `price` here
  end


  # Optional, see below
  definition_methods do
    # Optional: if this method is defined, it overrides `Schema.resolve_type`
    def resolve_type(object, context)
      # ...
    end
  end
end

Interface classes are never instantiated. At runtime, only their .resolve_type methods are called (if they’re defined).

Implementing Fields

Interfaces may provide field implementations along with the signatures. For example:

field :price, Types::Price, "How much this item costs", null: false

# Implement this field to return a `::Price` object
def price
  ::Price.from_cents(@object.price_in_cents)
end

This method will be called by objects who implement the interface. To override this implementation, object classes can override the #price method.

Definition Methods

You can use definition_methods do ... end to add helper methods to interface modules. By adding methods to definition_methods:

This way, class methods are inherited when interfaces include other interfaces. (definition_methods is like ActiveSupport::Concern’s class_methods in this regard, but it has a different name to avoid naming conflicts).

For example, you can add definition helpers to your base interface, then use them in concrete interfaces later:

# First, add a helper method to `BaseInterface`'s definition methods
module Types::BaseInterface
  include GraphQL::Schema::Interface

  definition_methods do
    # Use this to add a price field + default implementation
    def price_field
      field(:price, ::Types::Price, null: false)
      define_method(:price) do
        ::Price.from_cents(@object.price_in_cents)
      end
    end
  end
end

# Then call it later
module Types::ForSale
  include Types::BaseInterface
  # This calls `price_field` from definition methods
  price_field
end

The type definition DSL uses this mechanism, too, so you can override those methods here also.

Resolve Type

When a field’s return type is an interface, GraphQL has to figure out what specific object type to use for the return value. In the example above, each customer must be categorized as an Individual or Company. You can do this by:

This method will be called whenever an object must be disambiguated. For example:

module Types::RetailItem
  include Types::BaseInterface
  definition_methods do
    # Determine what object type to use for `object`
    def resolve_type(object, context)
      if object.is_a?(::Car) || object.is_a?(::Truck)
        Types::Car
      elsif object.is_a?(::Purse)
        Types::Purse
      else
        raise "Unexpected RetailItem: #{object.inspect}"
      end
    end
  end
end

Orphan Types

If you add an object type which implements an interface, but that object type doesn’t properly appear in your schema, then you need to add that object to the interfaces’s orphan_types, for example:

class Types::RetailItem < Types::BaseInterface
  # ...
  orphan_types Types::Comment
end

Alternatively you can add the object types to the schema’s orphan_types:

class MySchema < GraphQL::Schema
  orphan_types Types::Comment
end

This is required because a schema finds it types by traversing its fields, starting with query, mutation and subscription. If an object is never the return type of a field, but only connected via an interface, then it must be explicitly connected to the schema via orphan_types. For example, given this schema:

type Query {
  node(id: ID!): Node
}

interface Node {
  id: ID!
}

type Comment implements Node {
  id: ID!
}

Comment must be added via orphan_types since it’s never used as the return type of a field. (Only Node and ID are used as return types.)