It’s Official: We’re On the Road to a Standardized Graph Query Language

It’s Official: We’re On the Road to a Standardized Graph Query Language

Last week I attended my third face-to-face meeting for WG3, a subgroup of ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC1), and the group that has developed, maintained, and extended the standards for the SQL database language for some four decades. This gathering was exciting because it was the first one since the GQL project had received official approval from JTC 1 to be an ISO/IEC effort.

We are focusing currently on the data and object types to be included, the exact meaning and functionality of vertex and edge “type” and ‘labels”, and in what way multiple graphs and views may exist and interact. We are also working on the overall structure of a “query” or a “procedure”. TigerGraph’s user-defined vertex and edge types, analogous to SQL table definitions, our MultiGraph feature for overlapping, updatable graphs, and GSQL’s procedure-like queries have been a strong influence. Likewise, the other perspectives on these matters from more “schema-free” languages also have a strong influence. The challenge, sometimes time-consuming and sometimes intellectually exciting, is to try to find a simple common ground that benefits the users.

Last week’s meeting also marks an era of increased collaboration between different vendors to reach a common standard. Symbolic of this collaboration is the fact that one of the Discussion papers presented was jointly authored by individuals from TigerGraph and Neo4j. In addition, an informal update on the work of an ad hoc committee was jointly presented by Petra Selmer of Neo4j and myself.

Speaking of ad hoc groups, the majority of work does not happen in these three-times-a-year face-to-face gatherings but in numerous web conferences and online discussions of both standing committees and ad hoc groups. At the head of these groups is the US national standards body ANSI / INCITS, from which most of the GQL proposals have been originating. INCITS DM32 has recently reorganized to take direct leadership of database languages, and it has chartered an official ad hoc group for GQL which currently meets online twice a month. There are usually six to 10 different companies represented at these meetings.

Moreover, there are a couple of “self-chartered” ad hoc groups, which tend to include greater representation from the academic community, because there is no fee to be in these self-chartered groups. One of them has been focusing on Property Graph Schema, and another have been surveying Existing Graph Languages, to find commonalities and good ideas.  This is the group that Petra and I reported on at WG3 last week. The two groups will soon be taken under the wing of LDBC (, so that they have more official standing and voice.

If you’d like to hear more about what’s going on in GQL, then plan to watch next week’s GQL Community Update video conference. The meeting takes place from 9 am to 10:30 am Pacific time. It will be chaired by Peter Boncz, chair of the LDBC, and Keith Hare, convener of ISO/IEC JTC1/SC32/WG3. I’ll present an update from the Existing Languages Working Group (ELWG) . The full agenda is posted at the link above.

Thanks for reading. I hope many of you will be listening in on October 9.

Victor Lee

Director, Product Management