On FastAPI

Over the past year or two, I've been heavily using FastAPI in my day job. I've been around the Python web framework block, and I gotta say, FastAPI really succeeds in its mission of building on the strengths of its predecessors (particularly Django and Flask), while feeling more modern and adhering to certain opinionated principles. In my opinion, it's pretty much exactly what the best-in-breed of the next logical generation of web frameworks should look like.

¡Ándale, ándale, arriba!
¡Ándale, ándale, arriba!
Image source: The Guardian

Let me start by lauding FastAPI's excellent documentation. Having a track record of rock-solid documentation, was (and still is!) – in my opinion – Django's most impressive achievement, and I'm pleased to see that it's also becoming Django's most enduring legacy. FastAPI, like Django, includes docs changes together with code changes in a single (these days called) pull request; it clearly documents that certain features are deprecated; and its docs often go beyond what is strictly required, by including end-to-end instructions for integrating with various third-party tools and services.

FastAPI's docs raise the bar further still, with more than a dash of humour in many sections, and with a frequent sprinkling of emojis as standard fare. That latter convention I have some reservations about – call me old-fashioned, but you could say that emoji-filled docs is unprofessional and is a distraction. However, they seem to enhance rather than detract from overall quality; and, you know what, they put a non-emoji real-life smile on my face. So, they get my tick of approval.

FastAPI more-or-less sits in the Flask camp of being a "microframework", in that it doesn't include an ORM, a template engine, or various other things that Django has always advertised as being part of its "batteries included" philosophy. But, on the other hand, it's more in the Django camp of being highly opinionated, and of consciously including things with which it wants a hassle-free experience. Most notably, it includes Swagger UI and Redoc out-of-the-box. I personally had quite a painful experience generating Swagger docs in Flask, back in the day; and I've been tremendously pleased with how API doc generation Just Works™ in FastAPI.

Much like with Flask, being a microframework means that FastAPI very much stands on the shoulders of giants. Just as Flask is a thin wrapper on top of Werkzeug, with the latter providing all things WSGI; so too is FastAPI a thin wrapper on top of Starlette, with the latter providing all things ASGI. FastAPI also heavily depends on Pydantic for data schemas / validation, for strongly-typed superpowers, for settings handling, and for all things JSON. I think it's fair to say that Pydantic is FastAPI's secret sauce.

My use of FastAPI so far has been rather unusual, in that I've been building apps that primarily talk to an Oracle database (and, indeed, this is unusual for Python dev more generally). I started out by depending on the (now-deprecated) cx_Oracle library, and I've recently switched to its successor python-oracledb. I was pleased to see that the fine folks at Oracle recently released full async support for python-oracledb, which I'm now taking full advantage of in the context of FastAPI. I wrote a little library called fastapi-oracle which I'm using as a bit of glue code, and I hope it's of use to anyone else out there who needs to marry those two particular bits of tech together.

There has been a not-insignificant amount of chit-chat on the interwebz lately, voicing concern that FastAPI is a one-man show (with its BDFL @tiangolo showing no intention of that changing anytime soon), and that the FastAPI issue and pull request queues receive insufficient TLC. Based on my experience so far, I'm not too concerned about this. It is, generally speaking, not ideal if a project has a bus factor of 1, and if support requests and bug fixes are left to rot.

However, in my opinion, the code and the documentation of FastAPI are both high-quality and highly-consistent, and I appreciate that this is largely thanks to @tiangolo continuing to personally oversee every small change, and that loosening the reins would mean a high risk of that deteriorating. And, speaking of quality, I personally have yet to uncover any bugs either in FastAPI or its core dependencies (which I'm pleasantly surprised by, considering how heavily I've been using it) – it would appear that the items languishing in the queue are lower priority, and it would appear that @tiangolo is on top of critical bugs as they arise.

In summary, I'm enjoying coding with FastAPI, I feel like it's a great fit for building Python web apps in 2024, and it will continue to be my Python framework of choice for the foreseeable future.

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