CloudThe State of Webhooks in the API Economy

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Expose your APIs to Webhooks! They allow for streamlined communication between you and partners, and give reason to implement your API integrations.

By Mark Geene and Ross Garrett




Webhooks: Think of them as “don’t call us, we’ll call you” for the automated Web. Business events are the key pieces of data that enterprises, applications, and developers really care about. There are many ways of handling events, but using Webhooks is becoming the technology of choice amongst API providers and developers. Webhooks are event-driven APIs that enable developers to surpass many integration challenges, but, despite the unparalleled efficiency Webhooks offer to developers, and the majority of developers surveyed being in favor of them, most APIs still do not support Webhooks. Although the reason behind this might be chalked up to an intimidation factor, there’s no reason for Webhooks not to become widely adopted in the coming year.

Cloud API integration platform Cloud Elements surveyed more than 107 public endpoints, 58 beta endpoints, 28,000 individual instances and upwards of 1.6 billion API calls for its State of API Integration Report 2017, revealing developers’ preferences around events and synchronization, and examining how widespread (or not) Webhooks adoption is. The report’s data was collected and analyzed between September 2016 and March 2017, and comes from Cloud Elements API integration platform and cites research provided by ProgrammableWeb API Directory, the Datanyze Market Share Report of 2016, and SmartBear’s State of API Report 2016.

Mark Geene is CEO and Co-founder of Cloud Elements, and Ross Garrett is the Head of Product Marketing at Cloud Elements


Slide 1: WebhooksSlide 1: Webhooks


Image from Cloud Elements’ State of API Integration Report 2017

With Webhooks, developers have a smarter way to operate. Webhooks automatically post new event data to a user-defined URL that is monitored by the user’s linked applications. When a new event is posted to that URL, the linked apps update in real time to incorporate the new data. Even though Webhooks were introduced almost a decade ago—when developers would have to write a polling routine to react to changes on Web sites, databases, or APIs—adoption of Webhooks has occurred slowly.


Slide 2: Webhooks Compared to Other OptionsSlide 2: Webhooks Compared to Other Options


Image from Cloud Elements’ State of API Integration Report 2017

Approximately 80 percent of developers prefer using Webhooks over other methods. However, most Web sites and APIs still do not support Webhooks automatically: Only 29 percent of APIs offer Webhooks. Of the APIs that do support Webhooks, 92 percent are REST APIs. The remaining 8 percent are SOAP or XML. If you’re working solely with SOAP APIs, it is highly unlikely that you will also be able to find the support you need from Webhooks.


Slide 3: Webhooks Versus PollingSlide 3: Webhooks Versus Polling


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The primary alternative option to Webhooks is polling, the main method for change notifications at higher levels before Webhooks came along. When compared to Webhooks, polling is exceedingly time consuming, requiring developers to write an algorithm to check the status of an endpoint for changes, and wasteful, with 98.5 percent of all polls receiving no response at all. This means that fewer than 3 percent of responses via polling come back with positive changes.


Slide 4: The Primary Difference Between Webhooks and PollingSlide 4: The Primary Difference Between Webhooks and Polling


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Unlike polling, Webhooks only update when new information is available. The primary difference between Webhooks and polling is that the hooks only update when there is new information available. Webhooks will never waste your time: They let you know when there’s actionable intelligence when there are changes at an endpoint.


Slide 5: Webhooks SupportSlide 5: Webhooks Support


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The categories that have the most Webhooks support are marketing automation software (44 percent), cloud storage (43 percent), and e-commerce (36 percent). With Webhooks supported to even lesser degrees in other categories, there is clearly room for improvement.


Slide 6: Getting Started with WebhooksSlide 6: Getting Started with Webhooks


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Don’t be intimidated by Webhooks. If you’re just getting started with Webhooks, GitHub offers a great introduction to creating Webhooks as well as a detailed look at Webhooks’ structure. All you need to do is configure a Webhook URL to accept outside Webhooks sent as HTTP POST requests. Webhooks have three main components:

  • A payload URL, where message payloads will be delivered
  • Content_type, which defines the media type of the response
  • Events, or the actions that trigger a message. (For this, look to GitHub’s Webhooks API reference page for a list of Webhook events to pull from.)


Slide 7: Expose Your APIs to WebhooksSlide 7: Expose Your APIs to Webhooks


Image from Cloud Elements’ State of API Integration Report 2017

Developers of the world: Expose your APIs to Webhooks! On top of Webhooks’ many benefits to you, they allow for far more streamlined communication between you and partners, and give your clients a better reason to implement your API integrations into their systems. 2017 is poised to be the year of the Webhook in the API economy, with wider adoption of Webhooks from a broader range of businesses as more enterprises and SaaS applications adopt Webhooks to manage data updates and consumption.

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