You've likely heard the term webhook at some point. But what are webhooks?

Five key takeaways from What Are Webhooks:

  • Webhooks are HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) callbacks, or HTTP requests.

  • Webhooks are triggers that facilitate two-way communication between tools, apps, and programs an organization uses whenever new data is presented.

  • Benefits of using webhooks include real-time communication, enhanced automation, greater productivity and efficiency, and better overall versatility.

  • Webhooks are lightweight in comparison to APIs and are much easier to deploy across multiple interconnected apps.

  • Common use cases for webhooks include Ecommerce platforms, payment gateways, social media platforms, customer relationship management systems (CRMs), and other marketing tools.


Table of Contents


To understand webhooks and how they fit into data integration, it helps to know a little about application programming interfaces, or APIs, and integration overall. Webhooks are basically a way for programs to communicate — but it's a little more involved than mere communication.

In this post, we'll provide a comprehensive guide to webhooks, including what they are, how they work, and practical ways to use them, as well as the benefits of using webhooks for your specific use case.

What Are Webhooks?

What is a webhook? A webhook is a HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) callback, or HTTP request. Webhooks push information between apps according to specific events, such as sending emails. For example, when you send an email to your subscribers, you likely capture delivery rate, open rate, bounce rate, and such. Say an email bounces, a webhook logs that event and notifies your email-tracking application of the bounce, which then notifies your team of the bounce.

Your organization uses multiple tools to track all sorts of activities in your day-to-day business. Webhooks are basically triggers that facilitate two-way communication between these tools.

Webhook Examples

Some examples of webhooks include:

Two-factor authentication, or 2FA

When an employee enters their company email login information, a webhook enables the email program to communicate with an authentication program like Microsoft Authenticator. After authentication, the webhook trigger lets the email application know the employee is verified.

Online call routing programs

An online call router like Twilio uses webhooks to facilitate communication between Twilio and your telephone number. Remember, webhooks are triggers that respond to events. In the case of a call routing program, receiving a phone call is the event that triggers routing that call (or SMS text message) to your phone number.

Workspace notifications

For example, many workplaces use apps like Slack, Trello, or Asana to track and manage projects, deadlines, and other workspace management tasks. Most companies use a mix of these tools to manage a typical workday. 

These applications use webhooks as follows:

  • Slack: After a colleague sends you a direct message, a Slack webhook triggers the notification you receive alerting you to the message. Other Slack workspace webhooks notify you of posts to individual channels you're assigned to within the workspace.

  • Trello: This project management app's webhooks send notifications to relevant team members whenever a project task changes status.

  • Asana: If Slack and Trello had a baby, it would be Asana. This project management app has direct messaging functionality, team chat, and project management all rolled into one. Managers can assign entire projects and individual project tasks to teammates, both of which notify the assigned employees of their roles, project details, deadlines, and more.

Webhooks really shine when you integrate different applications that need to speak to each other. For example, while Asana has everything the typical project manager and team requires, it's not the most user-friendly project management application and can have a steep learning curve for some teams. However, sharing information is streamlined when you connect Asana to Trello — the assigned projects and in-project tasks in Asana can populate your Trello boards automatically.

What Are Webhooks vs. APIs?

While webhooks are a type of API, webhooks are much more lightweight than APIs and are easier to deploy across multiple interconnected apps.

APIs and reverse APIs facilitate back-and-forth communication between programs and applications using manual requests. Webhooks are lightweight APIs. They also facilitate communication but are driven by events that occur rather than requests that are made. Today's apps are becoming ever more connected, so understanding how webhooks and APIs differ and which is better for a specific use case can help your development team choose which of these communication facilitators is best on a task by task basis.

Some common terms you may hear when referencing webhooks include:

  • Payload: A payload is the data sent by the webhook.

  • Endpoint: The URL destination of a webhook event notification. The endpoint can trigger activity depending on the payload message.

  • Event: The trigger that initiates a payload message to the endpoint.

  • Trigger: An automated "ear" listening for specific data types. 

Recommended Reading: What is Change Data Capture?

So, how does a webhook enable this communication?

How Do Webhooks Work?

In addition to "what are webhooks," you may simultaneously wonder, "How does a webhook work, exactly?"

So, here's a walkthrough of how webhooks work covering each step in the webhook process:

1. Create the Webhook

When a developer at ABC Services requires notification of certain events at XYZ Services, they create a webhook on the ABC Services side. Once the webhook is created, the developer gives the webhook's endpoint URL to ABC Services — this endpoint is where XYZ Services will then send any notifications (also known as HTTP POST requests) containing data from the specified events.

2. A Specified Event Occurs

At some point, one of the specified events that ABC Services needs to know about will happen at XYZ Services, such as a new file upload or purchase order.

3. An HTTP POST Request is Created

XYZ Services creates (or automates) the HTTP POST request. This request contains data pertaining to the event for which ABC Services has requested notifications. Then XYZ Services forwards the HTTP POST request to ABC Services' endpoint.

4. The HTTP POST Request Triggers the Webhook's Endpoint

ABC Services receives the request at the endpoint. The webhook parses the request's data to determine the specific event that occurred at XYZ Services.

5. Event Processing

ABC Services now understands the event that took place at XYZ Services and can respond appropriately. Event processing might include:

  • Storing data in a warehouse or database

  • Updating data records

  • Triggering an additional response

  • End-user notifications

6. Optional: ABC Services can respond

ABC Services can, if necessary, respond to the event at XYZ Services with a status code, letting XYZ know that the webhook was successful.

We should note here (just to reiterate) that a webhook is always initiated at the source upon event occurrence. That's one of the main differences between webhooks and APIs. An API requires manual requests and responses, whereas webhooks are fully automatic.

Using the ABC Services/XYZ Services example, the "request" is set when ABC Services' developers create the webhook. Afterward, all communication flows one way — from XYZ to ABC — whenever a webhook's requested events occur. As noted above, ABC Services can respond to verify receipt of the notification, but it isn't necessary.

Benefits of Using Webhooks

By now, you've got an idea of the answer to your original question, "What are webhooks?" However, you might not be sold on why webhooks. Why not stick with and rely on APIs?

While APIs are certainly useful, their manual nature can leave a little to be desired. 

Some of the benefits of incorporating webhooks include:

  • Real-time communication. Traditional communication (APIs, file transfer, etc.) between apps doesn't occur instantly, whereas webhooks are real-time data transfers. Whenever certain events occur in source applications, the applications with webhooks for those events are notified immediately, shortening response times.

  • Enhanced automation. An API requires manual interventions for event responses. Webhooks automate these processes, eliminate manual data entry requirements, and reduce the potential for errors.

  • Improved productivity. Webhooks automate many traditionally manual processes, helping businesses improve productivity, increase efficiency, and reduce costs — all of which tend to boost team morale, too, which is a "win" for everyone.

  • Versatility. You might consider webhooks the saviors of the data world. You can configure these data transfer automation tools to connect to, send, and receive data from virtually any apps — webhooks are programming language- and platform-agnostic.

Recommended Reading: What Are APIs and How Do They Work?

What Are Webhooks: Most Common Use Cases

There are more reasons in favor of than against the use of webhooks because of the versatility mentioned above. But there are some webhooks use cases that really stand out, such as:

Most Common Use Cases for Webhooks

Platform or Application

Common Use Case

Ecommerce site (Shopify, eBay, etc.)

  • New order or new customer
  • Order status update
  • Inventory alert
  • "Welcome" and "Thank You" emails

Payment gateway (Square, Stripe, etc.)

  • Transaction alerts
  • Payment capture
  • Declined payments

Social channels (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.)

  • Status updates
  • New followers
  • Friend/Follower requests

CRMs & other marketing tools (HubSpot, Nimble, Salesforce, etc.)

  • Lead tracking
  • Purchase alerts
  • Campaign clicks
  • Email open/bounce rate
  • Customer information updates

Recommended Reading: 5 Ways to Integrate Salesforce with Other Platforms

Webhook Challenges: How to Troubleshoot Common Issues

Even the best advancements in technology aren't without flaws. Webhooks are only as strong as their programming.

Here are some of the most common webhook issues and what you can do to solve them:

  • Request failed: When creating a webhook, your server must return a 200 OK message to signify that the webhook is properly programmed. Usually, a failed request stems from an incorrectly configured webhook.

    • The fix: Review your webhook configuration and run a debugging process to discover the error.

  • Exceeded redirect limit: You may receive an error message if a webhook contains too many redirects.

    • The fix: If you've exceeded your maximum number of redirects, check your server for a potential redirect loop.

  • Unsupported certificate: Sometimes, a webhook may return an error message if the SSL or TLS version isn't supported. You may also find this error if the SSL certificate is expired or private.

    • The fix: Ensure the certificate your webhook URL is built upon is:

      • Public

      • Valid and not expired

      • Supported by SSL or TLS

  • Unreachable URL: Your webhook won't work if its URL is improperly configured. For instance, if your URL includes localhost, it is not accessible to the public. It's also possible your webhook URL simply doesn't exist due to the wrong configuration.

    • The fix: Check your server's availability and uptime. If all is well in that respect, check your URL configuration to verify that your webhook URL is set to public.


Webhooks — even with the occasional hiccup — are a lightweight way to share data between web applications, automate traditionally manual API tasks, and receive real-time notifications for the type of events they're built for. If you have organizational tasks that can benefit from webhooks, such as new customer signups, inventory alerts, or sales tickets, consider streamlining your workflow with webhooks.


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What are webhooks?

A webhook is a HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) callback triggers that facilitate two-way communication between the tools, apps, and programs an organization uses.


Can webhooks be used for real-time updates?

Webhooks are real-time data transfers. Whenever certain events occur in source applications, the applications with webhooks for those events are notified immediately, shortening response times. In other words, webhooks *are* real-time updates.


How are webhooks different from APIs?

APIs facilitate communication between programs and applications per requests. Webhooks are lightweight APIs that facilitate the same type of communication but are proactively driven by events rather than requests.