What Are Webhooks?

Webhooks confirm the reality that every conspiracy theorist has already convinced themselves: man-made technology is sentient. 

Of course, the impact of such a conundrum is far less menacing than any Terminator movie would ever let on. 

Yes, technology has the capacity to communicate with disparate technology. But humans have programmed technology to do so for their own convenience. 

This is just a brief glimpse of what webhooks can really do. And though there’s no cyborg assassin to intervene on this topic, learning about webhooks can still prove to be interesting. 

In short, software applications speak to each other via webhooks. For a more in-depth understanding of how this happens, stay tuned!

What Is a Webhook?

Technically speaking, a webhook is a user-defined HTTP callback. But from your perspective, this definition probably sounds like gibberish. 

For clarification’s sake, HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. It’s a protocol that allows media resources like text to be shared across the web. 

You can integrate webhooks into any web service given the close relationship between webhooks and HTTP. 

What’s more interesting, however, is what webhooks can do. Webhooks respond to HTTP requests, sheathed in pre-mediated triggers. 

For example, a trigger can be a recent comment on a blog post or pushing code to a repository. Reacting to this trigger, webhooks send web-based real-time notifications to a previously configured webhook URL

In fewer words, webhooks send automated messages from one website or application to another, based on triggers. 

How Do Webhooks Work?

Webhooks work by taking advantage of automation. Plainly put, they are a jumble of internal code that prompts services to speak to one another. 

In some ways, a webhook is similar to an API integration, but with much less complexity, and with a different mission overall

As an illustration, imagine a John Doe signs up for an email list to a product-related newsletter from your business. You’ve already set up a webhook through your customer relationship management (CRM) system that responds to this trigger.

Webhooks communicate with applications rather than humans.

What’s important to remember, here, is that webhooks communicate with applications rather than humans. Therefore, you will not be personally notified of the event in question. 

But if your CRM ‘catches’ the webhook — a common expression for webhook antics — the webhook will send the information to your membership site. 

For the applications in communication, the message might look something like this:

 

type of event: new-subscriber
full name: John Doe
email address: johndoe@email.com

 

At this point, your membership website may perform some action in response to the message and/or webhook, like sending John an initial membership confirmation email. 

The point is, webhooks facilitate all this to happen. And as you can see, webhooks are altogether more convenient than threatening. 

All jokes aside, semi-sentient technology is not necessarily a bad thing. Though webhooks cannot feel, they do have a digital livelihood making them capable assets for any web service that employs them. 

Why Use Webhooks

Like with nearly every innovation, convenience is the root motivation for using webhooks. Webhooks curb tediousness and boost productivity. 

In the above example, could you imagine having to check for each time a user signs up for your newsletter, and then take several steps manually thereof to ensure the user gets their confirmation email?

Well, you probably can imagine it. But nothing about the amount of effort required for that whole affair seems particularly enticing. 

You see automation in almost every enterprise sector. Sales automation tools, to name a specific example, rely on the same underlying idea. 

The idea is that time is money. It sounds crude. But in fact, the more automatic a process is, versus manual, the more time you save. 

When you save more time, you can divest from humdrum, monotonous tasks, and invest more into critical business operations. 

Do so on a regular basis and using technology to bolster team efficiency becomes a tried-and-true technique that fosters long-term scalability and growth for your business. 

Webhooks Use Cases

To better familiarize yourself with the concept of webhooks, check out some of these use cases where webhooks come in handy. 

Shopify 

Shopify is an e-commerce platform that works with many successful brands. Businesses use Shopify to operate online retail activities. 

The platform has its own set of webhooks that can be useful for conveying important information. Some standard Shopify triggers for webhooks include the following:

  • A user updates their shopping cart
  • A user checks out
  • A user initiates a refund

MailChimp

MailChimp is a marketing automation tool where email is the primary and only focus for business marketing schemes. 

Like Shopify, MailChimp provides webhooks to its users. Since MailChimp is tailored for email campaigns events are more likely to include:

  • A user subscription 
  • A user unsubscription
  • A profile update

Slack

Slack is a popular messaging application geared towards business communication. Users can create and manage various chat rooms and channels to keep teams organized. 

A big advantage of Slack is its ability to integrate with other common business applications like Google Drive, Jira, and Zoom. 

One favored business app is 15Five which permits business managers to track the performance and well-being of their employees. 

There is one segment of 15Five that encourages employees to essentially shout out other employees for the good work they’re doing. 

Integrate 15Five with Slack and your employees’ shout-out or high five (the official term) will tag and notify the relevant team member through Slack. 

Webhook vs. APIs

Both webhooks and APIs share common themes of connectivity and communication between technology. But they are distinct technical concepts. 

APIs are a back-end structure that follows a request/response pattern. A common example is Googling the weather from your smartphone. The information you receive in return is pulled from a reliable weather website using an API.

APIs pull information from various sources to fulfill user requests.

In a nutshell, APIs connect different software platforms in order to fulfill user requests. A comparable integration happens with webhooks but the request/response loop is more immediate.

Some even call webhooks a subset of APIs. The Slack use case, for instance, could just as easily have been used to exemplify APIs. 

The distinguishing difference is that webhooks are more lightweight. They are also limited to web services, centering a particular type of communication by default. 

In practice, a non-technical API example would be the equivalent of calling a restaurant to see if your favorite dish is still available. 

With a webhook, you would simply access this information through your go-to order and delivery app. 

All in all, webhooks are less resource-intensive. They are the petite version of APIs. 

How To Use Webhooks in Your Business

Setting up webhooks depends entirely on the applications that are in need of communication. 

Most webhook providers have an abundance of documentation to guide you through the process of creating and using webhooks within your business. 

Look for the developers' section or utilize the search bar to find the documentation in question. Check for event types and attempt to narrow down your search. Once you locate the proper documentation, the rest is up to you. 

Unfortunately, sometimes documentation can be unnecessarily complex or the webhooks themselves don’t cover all your bases. 

This is where Trio comes in. Trio specializes in data integration of all kinds. Whether your integration involves automation tools, APIs, or webhooks, Trio has you covered. 

Talk to Trio now to find out more about webhooks and learn how custom development might suit your needs.

Cordenne Brewster

Content Writer

About

A tech enthusiast whose ardor is best expressed through the written word.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re looking for some information, but can’t find it here, please contact us.

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A webhook is a user-defined HTTP callback enabling applications to communicate with one another.

The primary difference between webhooks and APIs is scale. Webhooks function on a smaller scale than APIs.

Webhooks respond to pre-determined triggers and send relevant information to the receiving application.