Connection

A faction has many ships in the Star Wars universe. Relay contains functionality to make manipulating one-to-many relationships easy, using a standardized way of expressing these one-to-many relationships. This standard connection model offers ways of slicing and paginating through the connection.

Let's take the rebels, and ask for their first ship:

query RebelsShipsQuery {
  rebels {
    name,
    ships(first: 1) {
      edges {
        node {
          name
        }
      }
    }
  }
}

yields

{
  "rebels": {
    "name": "Alliance to Restore the Republic",
    "ships": {
      "edges": [
        {
          "node": {
            "name": "X-Wing"
          }
        }
      ]
    }
  }
}

That used the first argument to ships to slice the result set down to the first one. But what if we wanted to paginate through it? On each edge, a cursor will be exposed that we can use to paginate. Let's ask for the first two this time, and get the cursor as well:

query MoreRebelShipsQuery {
  rebels {
    name,
    ships(first: 2) {
      edges {
        cursor
        node {
          name
        }
      }
    }
  }
}

and we get back

{
  "rebels": {
    "name": "Alliance to Restore the Republic",
    "ships": {
      "edges": [
        {
          "cursor": "YXJyYXljb25uZWN0aW9uOjA=",
          "node": {
            "name": "X-Wing"
          }
        },
        {
          "cursor": "YXJyYXljb25uZWN0aW9uOjE=",
          "node": {
            "name": "Y-Wing"
          }
        }
      ]
    }
  }
}

Notice that the cursor is a base64 string. That's the pattern from earlier: the server is reminding us that this is an opaque string. We can pass this string back to the server as the after argument to the ships field, which will let us ask for the next three ships after the last one in the previous result:

query EndOfRebelShipsQuery {
  rebels {
    name,
    ships(first: 3 after: "YXJyYXljb25uZWN0aW9uOjE=") {
      edges {
        cursor,
        node {
          name
        }
      }
    }
  }
}

gives us


{
  "rebels": {
    "name": "Alliance to Restore the Republic",
    "ships": {
      "edges": [
        {
          "cursor": "YXJyYXljb25uZWN0aW9uOjI=",
          "node": {
            "name": "A-Wing"
          }
        },
        {
          "cursor": "YXJyYXljb25uZWN0aW9uOjM=",
          "node": {
            "name": "Millenium Falcon"
          }
        },
        {
          "cursor": "YXJyYXljb25uZWN0aW9uOjQ=",
          "node": {
            "name": "Home One"
          }
        }
      ]
    }
  }
}

Sweet! Let's keep going and get the next four!

query RebelsQuery {
  rebels {
    name,
    ships(first: 4 after: "YXJyYXljb25uZWN0aW9uOjQ=") {
      edges {
        cursor,
        node {
          name
        }
      }
    }
  }
}

yields

{
  "rebels": {
    "name": "Alliance to Restore the Republic",
    "ships": {
      "edges": []
    }
  }
}

Hm. There were no more ships; guess there were only five in the system for the rebels. It would have been nice to know that we'd reached the end of the connection, without having to do another round trip in order to verify that. The connection model exposes this capability with a type called PageInfo. So let's issue the two queries that got us ships again, but this time ask for hasNextPage:

query EndOfRebelShipsQuery {
  rebels {
    name,
    originalShips: ships(first: 2) {
      edges {
        node {
          name
        }
      }
      pageInfo {
        hasNextPage
      }
    }
    moreShips: ships(first: 3 after: "YXJyYXljb25uZWN0aW9uOjE=") {
      edges {
        node {
          name
        }
      }
      pageInfo {
        hasNextPage
      }
    }
  }
}

and we get back

{
  "rebels": {
    "name": "Alliance to Restore the Republic",
    "originalShips": {
      "edges": [
        {
          "node": {
            "name": "X-Wing"
          }
        },
        {
          "node": {
            "name": "Y-Wing"
          }
        }
      ],
      "pageInfo": {
        "hasNextPage": true
      }
    },
    "moreShips": {
      "edges": [
        {
          "node": {
            "name": "A-Wing"
          }
        },
        {
          "node": {
            "name": "Millenium Falcon"
          }
        },
        {
          "node": {
            "name": "Home One"
          }
        }
      ],
      "pageInfo": {
        "hasNextPage": false
      }
    }
  }
}

So on the first query for ships, GraphQL told us there was a next page, but on the next one, it told us we'd reached the end of the connection.

Relay uses all of this functionality to build out abstractions around connections, to make these easy to work with efficiently without having to manually manage cursors on the client.

Complete details on how the server should behave are available in the GraphQL Cursor Connections spec.