If you use applications regularly, you might have noted that many of them have webhooks integration in their settings. And if you are the curious type, you might have wondered what they were all about. Webhooks are API-like concepts that are being utilized to allow communication between applications. They are an incredibly essential and resource-light means of implementing event reactions. However, to understand what they are, let’s dig deeper.
What are Webhooks?
Simply put, webhooks are a means by which applications automatically communicate with each other. They can be considered to be automated messages that provide a server-side application with a mechanism to notify the client-side application when a new event occurs on the server. Webhooks allow you to receive real-time data from an app when an event happens. Web services use webhooks to provide other services with real-time information through HTTP POST when something happens.
How They Work
Here is an example that shows you how webhooks work. Imagine there is someone at the door, and they want to get in. All they need to do is to press the button at the door, and the bell will ring in your living room. A signal will be sent from the switch to the bell telling you that there is someone at the door.
Webhooks operate in the same concept. The button at the door is the third-party app that transmits the signal when something happens. In the software world, the bell is referred to as the “listener,” and it is the URL that receives webhooks and performs the action. Examples of real-world use of webhooks are how PayPal informs your accounting app that the clients have paid, and how Shopify keeps parts of your eCommerce system up-to-date without the need to enter new transactions manually.
What is a webhook endpoint?
For a webhook to be operational, the client-side app must provide the server-side application with a URL. It is this URL that the server-side app calls when an event occurs. However, for the server-side to know to pass a message, the URL provided must contain an endpoint with a parameter that details the kind of event that should trigger an action. This is what is known as a webhook endpoint. It is the parameter in the URL that is provided by the third-party app to determines what type of event the server-side app can act on.
Is webhook secure?
The most significant concern for a lot of people is whether webhooks are secure. And since they deliver information to publicly available URLs in your app, they can be accessed by anybody and be used to provide you with unreliable data. As such, you are required to employ various techniques to safeguard your webhooks. The most uncomplicated approach is to force TLS connection. However, you can beef up security by adding tokens to the URL to act as a unique identification or implementing Basic Auth.
How to create a new webhook?
Most applications come with webhooks integrated into their settings, and creating them is swift and straightforward. You just need to follow these steps:
- Go to your app’s settings page click Webhooks.
- Then click on add webhook and choose a name.
- Copy the webhook URL from the application you want to send data to.
- Paste the URL in your app’s webhook section you opened.
- Select the format that you want the data to be transmitted in, whether JSON OR XML.
- Choose the type of events you want the application to notify you about.
- The last step is to ensure that the Webhook is enabled and click Save.
Despite being popular, Webhooks are not available in some applications. In this case, you can create webhooks using middleware applications such as IFTT, Zapier, and Automate.io. These platforms use APIs to help connect apps that don’t have webhook integrations and allow them to interact and share information.
Is a webhook an API?
Although webhooks and APIs are similar in the sense that they help applications interact and share information, they are not synonymous. Typically, applications communicate and interact in two ways; through APIs and webhooks.
An API allows apps to gets data through what is known as polling. This means that for an app to get new information or notification from a server-side app, they must make requests periodically.
On the other hand, a webhook allows an app to get data through pushing. This means that the app receives data automatically when an event occurs on the server-side app. this is the reason as to why webhooks are sometimes dubbed “reversed API.
In simple terms, an API gets data through periodic requests, while a webhook gets data automatically. Webhooks saves you time by helping you avoid polling for new updates.