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Annotation Structs

At a glance

  • Identifier: AnnotationStructs
  • Stage: RFC0: Strawman
  • Champion: -
  • PR: -
  • Related:
    • wg#1096 ("Metadata Directives" Proposal)


Annotation Structs

Schema annotations has long been desired, please see this long discussion:

I digested many of the currently proposed (and in the wild) solutions to this problem in my talk at the GraphQL Conference, you can see the talk here:

It covers:

  • custom introspection extensions
  • 'SDL' field in schema, like Apollo Federation
  • storing metadata in the description field
  • adding metadata entirely in user-space
  • 'applied directives'

It expands on the pros and cons of these approaches and asks "is there a better solution".

Note that this topic has historically been referred to as "schema metadata", but upon discussion with other WG members it has become clear that "annotations" is a better term - we're annotating the types/fields/arguments/etc rather than the data.


Some of the main problems that need to be solved with schema annotations are:

  • representing all desired annotations (including polymorphic annotations)
  • the need for granularity (partial introspection)
  • the need for support in tooling (e.g. GraphiQL) to give visibility into the annotations
  • being able to fully introspect the GraphQL schema in a small number of roundtrips
  • avoiding the need for complex parsing on the client
  • allowing for future expansion of the annotations/introspection schema (without namespace clashes)


It can be useful for clients to include small introspection queries as part of their applications - for example you might introspect a particular named enum to make available sorting options in a dropdown. If the schema adds support for a new sort method, the client could add this option to the dropdown without needing to be updated thanks to introspection. However, enum values don't currently contain enough information for this.

Consider that we add a "label" property to the annotations for each enum value - then we would have all we need to display it to the user, so long as they spoke that language. To cater to an international audience, we could add many translations to each enum value - but now the size of the introspection has grown. A better solution might be to allow the client to select just the translation that it needs from the enum value. (We also don't need any of the other annotations for the enum values, only the labels.)

Here's a few slides about other (significantly more desirable) capabilities granular annotations could enable:


This RFC proposes what I feel is a more capable and elegant solution than any of the previously proposed solutions covered by my talk, but it's predicated on the existence of a polymorphic-capable composite type that can be used symmetrically for both input and output. As it happens there's an RFC for that, so you can see this annotations RFC as an extension of that Struct RFC.

Note that though we use the keyword struct to indicate this type, really we're just extending the input object type to be available on output too, so you can replace the keyword struct with input if you prefer.


We could introduce annotations as a separate keyword (e.g. annotation +source(table: String, column: String, service: ServiceSource) on OBJECT | FIELD_DEFINITION), however the WG seem generally in favour of using directives to represent annotations, so we'll show how to power Lee's Metadata Directives proposal syntax with structs. I've taken the liberty of replacing the keyword metadata with annotation, but it's otherwise equivalent.

Here's an example schema a user might define:

directive @source(table: String, column: String, service: ServiceSource) annotation on OBJECT | FIELD_DEFINITION
directive @visibility(only: [VisibilityScope!]!) annotation on OBJECT
directive @label(en: String, fr: String, de: String) annotation on ENUM_VALUE

struct ServiceSource {
serviceName: string
identifier: string

enum VisibilityScope {
PUBLIC @label(en: "Everyone", fr: "Tout les monde", de: "Alle")

type User
@source(table: "public.users")
@visibility(only: [ORGANIZATION])
id: ID!
# Omitted for brevity:
# organization: Organization!
username: String! @source(column: "handle")
avatar: String! @source(service: {
serviceName: "S3"
identifier: "/avatars/27.png"

type Query {
me: User


Introspection query example:

User: __type(name: "User") {
# Or:
annotations {
... on __Annotation_source {
... on __Annotation_visibility {
VisibilityScope: __type(name: "VisibilityScope") {
enumValues {
# Only show me the 'label' directives, and only the 'en' argument of those:
annotations(directiveNames: ["label"]) {
... on __Annotation_label {

Changes to the schema introspection types:

# Each annotation directive will have a struct implicitly defined for it, named
# `__Annotation_${directiveName}` with a field for each argument the directive
# accepts. The type of these fields will be the same as the type of the
# directive arguments.

# The struct for the `@source(table: String, column: String, service: ServiceSource)` annotation directive:
struct __Annotation_source {
table: String
column: String
service: ServiceSource

# The struct for the `@visibility(only: [VisibilityScope!]!)` annotation directive:
struct __Annotation_visibility {
only: [VisibilityScope!]!

# The struct for the `@label(en: String, fr: String, de: String)` annotation directive:
struct __Annotation_label {
en: String
fr: String
de: String

# Each of the introspection entrypoints will have an `annotations` field added,
# which will return a list of struct-unions of the directives that were applied
# in those locations in order. The field can optionally accept a list of
# directives you're interested in to allow for more granular metadata selection.

type __Type {
# ...
annotations(directiveNames: [String!]): [__TypeAnnotation]
type __Field {
# ...
annotations(directiveNames: [String!]): [__FieldAnnotation]
type __EnumValue {
# ...
annotations(directiveNames: [String!]): [__EnumValueAnnotation]
# etc

# For `__TypeAnnotation` we get a struct-union representing all annotation
# directives that are valid on a GraphQL type (`OBJECT`, `INPUT_OBJECT`,
# `UNION`, `INTERFACE`, `SCALAR`, `ENUM`). There are two directives
# (`@source` and `@visibility`) that are available on at least one of these
# locations:
union __TypeAnnotation =
| __Annotation_source
| __Annotation_visibility