I'm doing some research on authentication methods and I've noticed that not only does Azure call their cloud Active Directory interface API the "Graph API" but also Facebook use the same term with their "Open Graph API".

What does the word "Graph" actually mean in the context of user identity? Is this just coincidence that Facebook and Azure both use the term for their identity platforms?

2 Answers 2


They're APIs for manipulating their respective Object Graphs. It makes sense to call an API for manipulating Graphs a Graph API.

  • Thanks, I had never heard the term before. I had always referred to an "Object Graph" as an Object Diagram or other UML diagrams.
    – jezpez
    Nov 11, 2016 at 4:04
  • This has nothing to do with diagrams. A graph is a mathematical object, which basically has "things" and "connections between things". Certainly, objects are "things" and they have "connections". In Facebook, the "things" are people, pages, posts, videos, fotos, comments, … and the "connections" are friendships, relations, the parent-child relation of a comment with its post, etc. Nov 11, 2016 at 7:44
  • A graph is visually represented with a diagram, so they're kind of related. Thanks for your practical example with Facebook objects and connections.
    – jezpez
    Nov 22, 2016 at 23:12

A graph has nothing to do with identity, at least not directly. In computer science it's a data structure with nodes and relationships between nodes. If you were only providing identity services, you wouldn't use a graph API. In the context of identity, you use a graph API to provide information about relationships between people and other people and the stuff they do online.

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