tRPC and gRPC look and sound almost identical. One might think they’re like cousin tools that do virtually the same thing: third-party integration. The truth is that there are, in fact, some differences between gRPC and tRPC. Their approach to getting the job done is essentially the same when building modern applications. Both are pretty popular frameworks adopted by large companies and developer communities. Yet, they serve completely different purposes (or at least they should).
While it isn’t fair to say that one is better, you may want to focus on one or the other, depending on the project's requirements and relevant endpoints. The same applies if you’re learning Software development and wondering which one you should know first. They even use different tools. That’s one more thing you definitely should bear in mind. This blog post will help you understand everything about tRPC and gRPC.
What is tRPC?
We mentioned tRPC and gRPC serve different purposes, so that’s probably a good place to start. tRPC (TypeScript Remote Procedure Call) is a cutting-edge developer tool to handle one of the most important aspects of Software Development, client-to-server communication (APIs). It leverages strong typing, static typing, and automatic code generation, which reduces boilerplate code and enhances developer productivity. tRPC quickly became popular for being more efficient than REST and way simpler than the GraphQL schema. So yes, TypeScript is the heart and soul of tRPC. But what about the other pieces of the puzzle? Remote Procedure Call is a paradigm that defines the communication between the client and server of an app.
So, tRPC is a framework that implements a communication paradigm (Remote Procedure Call) using TypeScript. How does RPC handle inter-service communication? It facilitates API calls using (TypeScript) functions or procedures across a network boundary. Simply put, by implementing tRPC, developers can use TypeScript functions in the Front-End (client) to make requests to the Back end (server). That also allows developers to get a response containing only the requested data, which is sometimes impossible with REST. This way, it boosts efficiency and streamlines the use of resources. Some other methods, like GraphQL ( a query language for APIs), can also accomplish this but require learning a whole new language.
When Should You Use tRPC?
Almost any project requires some level of client-to-server communication. Does that mean that it’s always best to use tRPC? Well, not quite. The major caveat with tRPC is that it requires your app to have TypeScript both in the Front and Back end to achieve seamless integration. As a result, it all depends on the tools you plan to use for your project. It’s still a good idea to use tRPC to implement TypeScript-related tools like React.js, Node.js, Next.js, or Nest.js. Also, remember that to get all the benefits from tRPC and its extensive language support, you’ll have to organize your project as a monorepo.
tRPC simplifies communication between Front-end and Backend teams. They don’t need to agree to any terms to handle API endpoints. It’s just TypeScript functions making a single request to the server. That can be particularly advantageous for projects that require scaling or constant updates. It isn’t hard to see why so many developers have fallen in love with it.
What is gRPC?
gRPC service method is a powerful and open-source RPC framework developed by Google, which explains the “g” in its name. Instead of TypeScript, it uses Protocol Buffers as its interface definition language with the HTTP/2 protocol. gRPC is robust, modern, efficient, and convenient. It has awesome error messages and status code handling tools and uses binary serialization. Note that RPC implies making function calls to two separate servers. Its Compact Wire Protocol with HTTP/2 works as a " contract," defining the standards for high-performance communication between clients and servers. That includes the data structure and its types, schemas, and fields, helping streamline the methods of communication.
Unlike tRPC, gRPC doesn’t force you to stick to TypeScript in the Front and the Back end, meaning it is platform and language-neutral. It works perfectly with a wide range of programming languages and tools, including Python, Ruby, C#, C++, Java, and PHP. Besides, you can also use it with Node.js, which means it supports TypeScript. As you can see, these are Backend programming languages. That’s the main focus of gRPC. Google built it to improve Software Development efficiency, simplicity, and scalability with features like load-balancing, tracing, strict typing, and health checking. Yet, it’s worth noting that gRPC shines in large apps with many complex Back-end functionalities, especially if they involve a Microservices ecosystem.
When Should You Use gRPC?
Here’s where things get really interesting. Remember we mentioned that tRPC and gRPC implementation serve two different purposes? While gRPC is a robust HTTP-based approach to connecting to separate apps, it may not be a good option for client-server communication; gRPC is much slower than REST API implementation. gRPC main purpose is to ensure seamless and efficient communication between Microservices Architecture. In other words, several small, independent Back-end apps. Can gRPC implementation handle client and server communication? It technically can, but you probably shouldn’t use it for that. Why? gRPC uses the HTTP/2 protocol, and despite having more benefits in message transmission than the HTTP 1.1 protocol, standard for communication, not many browsers support it.
You can use some tools to “translate” HTTP/2 to HTTP 1.1 and connect the client and server using gRPC APIs. However, that would make things way more complex than they must be. Instead, you should probably use gRPC, a high-performance, Open-Source Framework, for the main reason they made it: connecting Microservices Architectures. You can also do that with REST APIs, although it's limited to request-response communication patterns. That's where gRPC comes in as a more efficient way due to its binary serialization format of Protocol Buffers, which enables bi-directional streaming capabilities. With gRPC, message transmission speed is around five times faster than in JSON or XML message formats. Plus, it's an excellent choice, as it is highly efficient and language-agnostic for extensive projects requiring fast performance, scalability, and a diverse technology stack in Backend services. gRPC is a wonderful choice to avoid major pain points during development times.
Comparing tRPC vs. gRPC Protocols
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
tRPC and gRPC are major frameworks for building blazing-fast scalable Full-Stack Applications. tRPC is simple and flexible, aiming to simplify cross-platform communication, improving developer productivity. As a result, it’s normally best for relatively small or medium-sized brownfield projects that use TypeScript in the Front and Back end. On the other hand, consider using gRPC in scenarios where performance and scalability are critical. For instance, real-time applications that need faster communication, like chat applications, are designed with a Microservice Architecture in mind. Overall, both tools are excellent for Product Development, helping streamline the Development Lifecycle of modern, Microservices-based Application Architecture to a large degree.