There is a lot of discussion these days around webhooks vs. APIs.  Both have their pros and cons, but which one is the best option for your business?

Let’s take a look at the differences between webhooks and APIs to help you decide which one you should use and when. 

In this digital era and the concept of a global village, every business needs to deliver faster services to its customers. In order to achieve these goals, we have API and webhooks that make our life easier.

It handles communications between two applications. In this article, we will look more deeply into these technologies and their best use cases. We will also see some of the built-in API and webhooks service providers.

What are webhooks?

Webhooks are a way for a web application to notify a separate application about events that occur within the first application. For example, when a user signs up for a new account, the web application might send a webhook notification to an external application that handles user registration.

Webhooks are a type of notification that allows you to receive real-time updates on events that occur in your web applications. When an event happens, a webhook can send a message to a URL of your choice, notifying you of the event. This can be useful for tracking activity in your application or for sending data to other applications or services.

Webhooks are very similar to API, but the emphasis of webhooks would be POST notifications. It’s the lightweight version of API. Sometimes it is referred to as reverse API, but it’s not actually one. It is an event-based one-way communication method. 

Webhooks are user-defined HTTP callbacks used to notify other services about events that occur in your application. For example, you could use a webhook to send an email every time a new product is added to your store.

Webhooks can be a great way to keep your application tightly integrated with other services. When something important happens, your webhook can send a notification to the appropriate service, letting them take the appropriate action.

How Webhooks work?

A webhook is a simple but powerful tool that allows you to create custom integrations between your applications. A webhook is a way of notifying an external application that an event has occurred in another application. For example, you could create a webhook that notifies a third-party chat application when you receive a new message.

To create a webhook, you simply need to provide a webhook URL to the application that you want to notify. The application will make a request to the web-hook URL every time the event occurs. You can then use the webhook to trigger any action that you desire, such as sending an email or updating a database.

Webhooks architecture

Web-hooks architecture

Why are Webhooks called reverse API?

Web-hooks are sometimes referred to as reverse API because of its one way communication and the communication is initiated by an event not by the user’s request. When some events are triggered on an application it sends notification to the connected application. 

What is an API?

API stands for Application Programming Interface. APIs allow applications to interact with each other. For example, a web application might use an API to get data from a separate application

It is a set of rules that allow software to communicate with other software. This is a critical concept in software development, as it allows different parts of a program to work together.

One example of an API is the one that allows software to communicate with the operating system on a computer. This API allows different software programs to run on the computer and to share resources.

The way the front-end communicates with the backend is known as API. It is two-way communication and happened on request. When a user queries on browsers, the request is sent to the server, and after internal processing, the server sends the response back to the user.

Web API is a set of protocols that allow applications to communicate. They are used to exchange data between applications and to access data from various sources. API uses HTTP protocols, which allow applications to share data and functionality.

Types of API architecture

Rest API

If you’re a student, you’ve probably heard the term “rest API” thrown around a lot, but what does it actually mean? A rest API is a way of communicating with a web server by sending requests in the form of URIs (Uniform Resource Identifiers). This makes it possible to access data from a server without having to use a traditional web browser.

In order to use a rest API, you’ll need to use a client library. This is a piece of software that helps you to easily send requests and parse the responses. Client libraries are available for most programming languages, so you should be able to find one that meets your needs.

Graph-QL API

GraphQL API is a powerful technology that allows you to build custom APIs. It has gained a lot of popularity in the past few years, and for good reason. It is a great alternative to REST APIs.

Graph-QL is a query language for APIs and a runtime for fulfilling those queries with your existing data. Graph-QL provides a more efficient, powerful, and flexible way for developers to access data compared to traditional REST APIs.

What’s the difference between webhooks and API?

There are two main ways that applications can communicate with each other: through an API or via webhooks. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to understand the difference between the two before deciding which one to use.

API

An API is a set of rules that governs how two applications can interact with each other. It is typically used when two applications need to share data or when one application needs to access the functionality of another application.

When you use an API, you make a request to a server for data. The API then communicates with the other application and responds with the data you requested. This can be used to access data from other apps, or to send data to other apps.

Webhooks

A webhook is a way for an application to provide real-time data to another application. Unlike an API, which requires a request from the second application, a webhook sends data automatically when something happens in the first application. This makes webhooks ideal for applications that need to provide data in real-time, such as chat applications or collaborative editing applications.

Webhooks are a way for an app to provide other apps with real-time information. When something happens in the app, a webhook is triggered and sends a message to the other app. This allows the other app to take action based on the event that occurred. Webhooks involve only one-way communication.

When should webhooks be used?

There are many different occasions when webhooks can come in handy. For example, you may want to know when someone adds a new product to your online store. Or you may want to automatically send data from your website’s database to a CRM system.

One example is that I have personally used web-hooks in my portfolio website. I have used Formspree services. When a new user wants to contact me through contact forms, formspree sends that data to me on my registered email. It is a one-way data flow. Formspree sends you the contacted data but you can’t reply with an email to Formspree.

When should an API be used?

The best time to use a WebAPI will vary depending on the specific needs of your application. You can use web API when you have to get the data from a database, add data to the database, deleting and updating data to the database. It’s a two-way communication that happens on the request. It uses HTTP protocols to handle the request data.

Webhooks service providers

There are many services that support webhooks, including Zapier, IFTTT, Formspree, Pusher, etc. When creating a webhook, you’ll need to specify the URL of the service you want to notify, along with the event you want to trigger. A few of them are listed below you can use.

#1. Slack

Slack is mainly known as a messaging app however it also provides a webhooks service. Suppose you have applications running somewhere, and you want to get a message when something happens on your site. Or, when a new user registers, if you want a notification, you can configure slack incoming webhooks notification.

#2. Zapier

Zapier is an online automation tool that provides you the facility to connect your app and services. Suppose a new user registers on a website, or buys a product from an eCommerce website, and you want to trigger an event. You can use Zapeir’s ‘Trigger Event’ feature to send them an email or text message notifying them that they have been registered successfully or that their new order has been placed with the product’s details,

#3. Formspree

Suppose you have created a portfolio website and have the contact forms, but you don’t want to write contact form functionality. Here comes the role of Formspree. It allows you to configure a built-in form that will send the data to your registered email each time the form receives a new submission. It is mostly useful with serverless applications.

Conclusion

In this article, I have explained webhooks and API, when to use them, and their differences. Use Webhooks for one-way communication or notifications. Use APIs for 2-way communication for data exchange between apps.