Similarities between WordPress hooks and GraphQL directives

A WordPress application is highly extensible through plugins and the use of hooks (actions and filters) to modify the behavior of some piece of code (whether by WordPress core, the theme or plugins). Hooks are simple pieces of code that can override a value, or execute an action, whenever triggered.

In this example, filter block_categories allows to modify the block categories enabled in the WordPress editor:

function(array $categories): array
return [
'slug' => 'graphql-api-access-control',
'title' => __('Access Control for GraphQL', 'graphql-api'),

Hooks are simple, versatile and powerful; they can be abused, but well implemented, they make the application greatly extensible in ways that the developer did not plan in advance.

GraphQL directives as hooks permalink

Directives can be considered the equivalent to GraphQL as hooks are to WordPress.

Similar to a WordPress hook, a directive is a function that modifies the value of a field, thus augmenting some other functionality. As its counterpart, it is simple, versatile and powerful.

For instance, let's say we retrieve a list of post titles with this query:

query {
posts {

These results are in English. How can we translate them to French? With a directive @strTranslate applied on field title, which gets the value of the field as an input, calls the Google Translate API to translate it, and returns this output, as in this query:

query {
posts {
title @strTranslate(from: "en", to: "fr")

The use case for extensibility is clear: given a value for field title, we can modify it in any desired way through a directive. In this case, its modification is the translation to French through @strTranslate, but it could also be converting it to upper/lower case through @strUpperCase and @strLowerCase, or anything else.