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What is a Webhook and How to Use It?

A Webhook takes things a notch over APIs and make things more convenient for developers. They have already taken up a huge part of the developing world already, that too without letting the you know.

Working as a developer includes a lot more of new concepts and programming interfaces. One such example is the API, which is the abbreviation for Application Programming Interface, which is ideal for sharing functionality or data. With such programming interfaces, there is always a request and then a response.

What API does is that it allows the developers to make a request and then a response is received. For example, people use places API to look up for things near them, location or even a host of information about a place.

What is a webhook?


A webhook takes things a notch over APIs. Generally, a response is received only when there is a request, but not so much in case of webhooks. It allows the users to skip a step by taking out the request out of the equation. It just sends the information as and when it is available.

Webhooks make things more convenient for developers. If you consider a practical example, doing anything would require you to contact and make a request.

Is the milk boiled yet?
Has the coffee been prepared?

These are all the requests that are made before any confirmation or response is received. However, with a webhook, there is no request made and the information is sent as and when it is prepared.

You have arrived at a restaurant on a hot sultry day. The waiter waits for a bottle of water to be cooled in the refrigerator for five minutes and then offers you a glass of cold water.

This is how a webhook works. The response is received as and when the need arises or the response is ready in the first place. So practically, webhooks do help to skip the requesting step.


Difference between an API and webhook

Here is a table that would help you to understand the difference between an API and a webhook.

 

API

Webhook

APIs are based on request

Webhooks are not based on request

The response or result is given only after the request

The response is received without making any request

The request is made from the third-party

The developer sends the response as an when it is ready

 

Importance of webhooks


Webhooks make up a really significant part of the development industry and has been taken up a host of service providers. These allow the developers to automate all the manual processes. It disables the requesting job in favour of real-time. They are like the apps that are automated and send notifications as an when anything is available.

Webhooks are the HTTPs that fire out when a new data has been made available and contains a payload that can be acted upon.
Some webhook services are direct and not by the name. This means you will find them in the form of “instant notifications” or “callback URL”.
The two sides of a webhook work similar to any web service. For example, the sender has any information for people to know about, and there is a prospect user.

Examples of webhooks in the present life


Webhooks have already taken up a huge part of the developing world already, that too without letting the consumers know. The users of the services barely realise they have used a webhook.

The moment a mail is sent, the users get a push notification about the mail being “sent successfully”. Alternatively, there might even be an auto-generated reply mail that says “sending failed due to XYZ error”. This isn’t requested by the sender of the email, but the reply is received via a webhook.

Similarly, there is a lot of other applications that use webhooks. The most common ones among them are:


MailChimp

MailChimp for the developer works on webhook. It notifies the user each time there is a new subscriber or if someone has unsubscribed. Hence, the information is passed on the user as an when it is available.


Chargebee

There are multiple webhooks working behind Chargebee. The developer can enable more features for consumers who have upgraded their packages. Moreover, with email automation, the developers can receive notification about the people who have signed up.


Shopify

Shopify, or any e-commerce website is a classic example of webhooks. The buyers (or potential buyers) are informed of any new product that has been launched or is available at the store.


How to use a webhook

Using a webhook is often a very high-level and complex mechanism and is restricted only for the developers and coders. Here is a brief explanation.

  1. Create a URL on your server and configure it to accept and process POST requests. The request can be in XML, JSON or form-data form.
  2. Provide the URL to a service, who will then send you POST requests
  3. Once the service is received, an action is taken
  4. Your server will then process the request and then send a POST to the webhook provider to inform that you have received the payload

Besides this, you can use automated services for the deployment of webhooks. Instead of going through a lot of technical details, you can just use webhook testing tools which would create URLs that are made to listen to POST requests.

Conclusion

To put things in perspective, having a webhook really smoothens the experience by massive folds. They are best to provide real-time and instant notifications and information to prospective consumers. And considering the fact that webhooks are pre-requested (that is, requested at the time of creating the URL), it shows higher efficiency and a lot less hassle altogether.

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