Advancements in technology have led to the evolvement of web development, making it necessary for applications to communicate effectively. To meet the rising demand for communication by modern technology, we have to find the right means through which different technologies can communicate.
This is where APIs and Webhooks come into play. APIs and Webhooks play a vital role in enabling the relaying and syncing of data between different applications. That notwithstanding, the two work differently and have been designed to serve different functions.
As the need for interconnection between applications keeps on growing, developers need to differentiate APIs from Webhooks. This can help in choosing the right tool depending on the requirements of their applications.
What is an API?
An API is a software interface allowing communication between applications. Any action by an API is triggered by a request. For example, when you sign in to a weather application to check the weather of a certain location on a certain day, you send a request through an API to a server to retrieve the required information.
APIs can also be used to send data, not just request data. For example, when you are updating your status update on Facebook, you are triggering an API to send data to a database from the client-side.
Based on the kind of request that you send, you can use an API to delete, update, read, or create data. Even though you can use APIs to get real-time data and information, it is a little bit complicated and requires a lot of configurations. This makes Webhooks the best option for real-time data.
APIs will not always meet their requirements. However, this should not worry since you can set up an automation to test for the functionality, performance, security, and reliability of your APIs. This is the best way to make sure that APIs meet their expectations.
What is a Webhook?
A Webhook is a means by which an application sends automated information and messages to other applications. For instance, WooCommerce uses Webhooks to notify merchants about new orders in third-party applications while Twilio uses Webhooks to route phone calls and SMSs to a phone number.
If you are running multiple online accounts, they need to interact and ensure that they are all showing the latest status. This needs to happen in real-time. In a nutshell, Webhooks are the best option for those who would like to push data between applications in real-time.
But, what are the key differences between the two?
Key Differences: API vs Webhooks
An API is a programming interface that dictates the communication and sharing of data between different applications. It works like a messenger that takes a request from a client, delivers it to the appropriate resource, and then takes the response from the resource for delivery to the client.
A Webhook, on the other hand, is a means through which an application supplies real-time information to other applications. The information is triggered by an event. It can be delivered during the event or immediately afterward. Webhooks are also referred to as HTTP push API, Web Callback, or Reverse API.
APIs are based on requests. This means that for them to work, they must receive a request from a third-party application. Webhooks, on the other hand, are based on events. They will be triggered into action by an event and might work during or after the event as discussed above.
Taking a real-life example, we can compare both APIs and Webhooks to a car manufacturer. We can liken an API to a customer who calls the car manufacturer many times to find out if a certain car model has been manufactured.
On the other hand, a Webhook can be likened to a customer who asks the car manufacturer to call them back when a certain car model has been manufactured. In both these examples, the customer frees up time, simplifying processes for themselves and the car manufacturer.
APIs are more resource-intensive compared to Webhooks. This is because they consume a lot of time when a client is constantly checking for the availability of the resource that they want.
The key difference between APIs and Webhooks, as discussed above, is the fact that APIs need a request for them to issue a response while Webhooks do not. This means that while APIs retrieve the data that they want, Webhooks receive it without sending a request.
When To Use APIs
The best scenario to use an API is when you are sure that there will be constant data changes over time. If you deal with stagnating data, then you do not have to use an API.
For instance, if you are running an online store and have to keep checking some data or maybe update things like shipping status, then you can use an API effectively for this.
As discussed above, for you to successfully get data updates using an API, you have to make sure that it is regularly called. This means that an API works well for applications that use constantly changing data.
APIs can also be used for integrations to connect data between databases and web services when working with no-code tools. No-code allows businesses to develop applications without having to write code. For example, you can create websites or even mobile applications without coding.
When To Use Webhooks
Webhooks can also be defined as a messenger used to transfer small data. They are used when extracting and sending real-time data from one application to another.
For instance, let us assume that you have a platform or an application that requires real-time data from other applications. In such a case, you do not have to use an API. A Webhook is the best bet to make sure that everything works well for you.
One of the reasons developers choose to use a Webhook instead of an API in this scenario is to avoid wasting resources or getting challenges with the setup process.
In addition, you might find yourself in a situation where you cannot get a suitable API for the functionality that you need. Even when the API is available, it might not be the best option for what you need. In such a case, a Webhook can be used instead of an API.
Both APIs and Webhooks have played an important role in transforming web development. Today, application communication is an important part of interconnectivity and the way applications exchange data. Without APIs and Webhooks, web development would not be where it is today.