In an interconnected world, communication is critical – especially when it comes to applications. To ensure a seamless process, you need multiple applications to work together. That’s why there’s so much talk about automation. But how does automation really work?
You need applications to interact with one another, triggering actions based on set parameters or events, and to ensure a continued flow of events. Just made a sale? Automatically create an invoice. Received a low NPS rating? Generate a ticket for your team to close the loop. Need to check in with new clients? Trigger a follow-up survey through automated distribution.
There are a few ways for applications to communicate with one another. Integrating with an API (application programming interface) is one. But while this is a well known option, APIs require expertise to set up – and aren’t ideal for all situations. That’s where webhooks come into play.
What are webhooks?
There are two ways for applications to communicate: polling (asking for information and receiving an answer), which is used by APIs, and pushing (sending over data as soon as an event occurs).
A webhook is the second kind. Since the communication in this case is one-way, they’re often seen as “reverse APIs.”
To give a real-world example, an API is like calling up a store and asking if a particular product is back in stock, whereas a webhook is the store calling you up when the product is back in stock.
In other words, an API retrieves information while a webhook sends. When you use a webhook, as soon as an event occurs, the data is passed on – no questions asked.
Why use webhooks?
In a competition-driven market space, it’s essential to be able to deliver better experiences at every stage. One way to do that is to leverage automation to improve efficiency and create a well-rounded experience.
Just think about when you make a purchase online. You immediately get a notification on your phone alerting you of the amount debited and an invoice via email. Are they all the same platform? No. But a single event triggered the actions. Webhooks make that happen.
Advantages of webhooks
- Easy to implement: Unlike APIs, webhooks are much simpler to implement (and quicker in action). After all, they don’t wait for the receiving app to send across requests. Instead, they simply let you know when something happens, triggering all the subsequent actions.
- Faster than polling: Unlike polling, which requires a constant two-way interaction between applications, webhooks are triggered by events. As a consequence, they’re much faster in action and ideal where you need real-time updates.
- Less resource-intensive: Webhooks free up time on both sides – the source app and the listener – making it a much better fit for situations that are only event-specific and not data-intensive.
Things to keep in mind
While webhooks are much easier to implement, they’re also a lot less malleable. So if you need to tweak the code and change the process, you’re likely better off creating another webhook altogether for the altered event.
Moreover, if you’re looking to transfer large amounts of data, an API is the better way to go since they help transition data in bulk rather than through individual occurrences.
Webhooks are ideal when you are working with small amounts of data and need updates in real time. Unlike APIs, they’re much faster to set up. However, they might not always be able to capture nuanced information.
Alternately, APIs allow you to work with larger data that requires updates (ever wondered how the shipping status on parcels gets updated regularly?).
Both have distinct uses. So if you want to create an ecosystem that communicates, you can implement both webhooks and APIs for a more cohesive experience!