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Webhook: Definition, Types & Differences with API

Last updated: Nov 10, 2023

Webhook:  Definition, Types & Differences with API
Cover image: Illustration of a webhook enhances the effectiveness between systems.

What is Webhook?

A Webhook is an automated communication mechanism in real-time between two systems that allows one system to inform the other about recent events.

In website development and system integration, a webhook is a useful tool for triggering immediate responses to specific changes or events.

This mechanism sends an HTTP POST request to a specified URL when a particular event occurs.

Therefore, it is a communication mechanism that enhances the effectiveness between systems and applications to make them more efficient.

How It Works

After understanding what is webhook, you may also be intrigued by its operational intricacies. To delve into this, let's explore the subsequent explanation.

In broad terms, all communication within the webhook system is event-based. This signifies that the transmission of information transpires solely when the system receives input or actions that trigger subsequent processes.

From a technical perspective, this mechanism is commonly referred to as an HTTP callback, encompassing two fundamental components: the destination URL (endpoint) and the data payload.

The destination URL (endpoint) is the address where another system sends an HTTP POST request. Simultaneously, the data payload encapsulates information in either JSON or XML format that needs to be sent.

Upon the occurrence of an event, the configured system dispatches the data payload to the destination URL, thereby instigating a specific response or action from the receiving system.

 

Webhook VS API: What’s The Difference?

After reading an overview of what is webhook, you may find that, at a glance, its operation appears similar to an API (Application Programming Interface).

However, it's important to note that they are two concepts with distinct characteristics when observed as a whole. Here are some of the most common differences.

The Purpose

While both concepts are frequently used in software development to facilitate communication between systems, they serve relatively different purposes.

Webhooks, as a mechanism, enable a system to automatically inform another system about specific events. On the other hand, APIs aim to be protocols that allow two software applications to communicate with each other.

The Operation

Another difference lies in how they operate. In the case of webhooks, the entire data delivery process occurs automatically.

The concept of HTTP callbacks can be likened to subscribing to a magazine. With a subscription, you receive each new edition automatically in the future without requiring further action. In contrast, with APIs, the entire data delivery process must be initiated based on a request.

The Performance

Because communication between systems in webhooks happens automatically, this mechanism tends to require fewer server resources compared to APIs.
In the realm of APIs, every data request must be made manually, which decreases performance and efficiency by involving more resources.

The Security

When it comes to security, APIs generally provide better assurance. Why is that? As mentioned earlier, the data transfer process in APIs only occurs after receiving a request. This means that each type and amount of received data can be further examined and controlled.

In contrast, webhooks are not as effective in controlling the quantity and interval of each data because the process occurs automatically, making them vulnerable to overload.

 

How to Implement A Webhook

The following steps outline the process for implementing a webhook across various platforms:

  • Registering the destination URL (endpoint): Define the endpoint URL or application endpoint that will receive the data.
  • Provide a handler: Write code responsible for handling requests.
  • Set up the data source: At this stage, submit the endpoint URL.
  • Configure and manage effectively: Perform preference configuration, including filters, data delivery, and authentication.

 

3 Methods in Using Webhooks

Categorized based on their purpose, there are three methods you can implement. Here's a more detailed explanation.

1. Pipe Method

The Pipe Method emphasizes the use of a direct communication channel between two systems. This channel is utilized to instantly transmit data or information from the source to the receiving system.

Therefore, when an event or update occurs at the source, the data is promptly streamed through the communication channel to the predefined receiving system. 

The Pipe Method is often employed for real-time notifications and quick updates to reduce latency or delays in information sharing between systems.

2. Plugin Method

The Plugin Method involves integrating additional functionalities into the system. In this method, a tool acting as the main trigger will execute a specific plugin installed on the receiving system.

For example, an event in the source system triggers a plugin to perform a series of specific actions in the receiving system. 

This method provides extra flexibility by allowing customization of the receiving system's functionality as needed through the use of different plugins.

3. Push Method

The Push Method is an approach that prioritizes the concept of active updates from the source to the receiving system. 

This means that the source system actively pushes data or information to the receiving system without any specific request.

Hence, when a particular event occurs at the source, the system automatically sends related data to the receiving system. 

The Push Method is useful in scenarios that require a quick response time without additional steps from the receiving system to request information.

 

How to Configure a Webhook

Typically, each application has its own unique configuration process. However, in a broad sense, there are three configuration steps you can take:

1. Get the URL 

The first step is to obtain the URL from the data-receiving application. This URL will serve as the address where data will be sent by the data-sending application.

2. Access the Webhook in the Data-Sending Application

Navigate to the data-sending application, usually in the settings or webhook configuration section. This may vary depending on the application, and in some cases, you might need to create it first if it's not already available.

3. Enter the URL

Within the data-sending application, you will find an option to input the webhook URL you obtained earlier. This URL is where the data-sending application will send data.

4. Specify Parameters and Event Triggers

After entering the URL, you are typically prompted to specify parameters and event triggers. This step is crucial in the configuration process because you need to define the type of events or data that will trigger the transmission.

For example, you can configure it to receive notifications whenever there's a new message or a successful transaction.

5. Test The Capabilities

Before saving the configuration, it's highly recommended to test it first. Some data-sending applications provide an option to send a test request to the webhook, allowing you to verify that everything is functioning correctly.

6. Save The Configuration

Once you are confident that the configuration is correct and working well, you can save the settings.

7. Monitor and Manage

Subsequently, you need to monitor and manage it regularly. Ensure that each component within it remains active and is handled correctly. If there are issues, you'll need to address them.

Throughout the process, you might be prompted to provide additional information such as:

  • Content-Type: Fill in with the content type; the response could be application/JSON.
  • Payload URL: Fill in with the provided URL.
  • SSL Verification: Enable this option by selecting the Enable option.

 

Types of Remote Sessions That Can Be Tracked with Webhooks

This configuration is a mechanism you can leverage to receive real-time updates on various events such as:

  • Device Delete/Add
  • File transfer
  • Schedule session
  • Customer join
  • Device Online/Offline
  • Session Start/End
  • Bulk Deployment
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