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What are Webhooks? The Ultimate Guide

Braden Sidoti

Braden Sidoti

Webhooks allow apps to communicate with one another. Find out best practices and more here.

What are Webhooks? The Ultimate Guide

Webhooks can be powerful tools for your business, but only if implemented correctly. In this blog post, you will learn the nature of webhooks, some of the webhook best practices for implementation, and their various use cases in a business.

You will also get to explore examples of platforms that use webhooks in their development processes. And finally, you will learn how to implement webhooks in your authentication and development strategies. By following these webhook best practices, you will ensure that your webhooks are secure and efficient.

What Are Webhooks?

Webhooks are user-defined HTTP callbacks initiated by an event. In other words, a webhook is an HTTPS POST request sent whenever a specific event occurs to a URL that you have specified.

The usual trigger is some event, such as pushing code to a repository or a comment being posted to a blog. When that event occurs, the source site makes an HTTP request to the URL configured for the webhook. Webhooks can be used to perform various tasks, such as building a continuous integration system, sending notifications, or synchronizing data.

Webhooks offer a simple and flexible way to automate tasks that would otherwise be repetitive and time-consuming. They are preferred over polling because they allow you to receive information in near-real-time instead of waiting for a set interval. Their usage is not limited to development tasks; webhooks can be used for a wide range of integrations, such as social media, marketing, and customer support.

Webhooks are a powerful tool that can automatically send information from one system to another. However, before implementing webhooks in your system, it is essential to consider a few webhook best practices.

How Does a Webhook Work?

So, how do webhooks work? A webhook is an HTTP callback that is triggered by an event. When that event occurs, the source site makes an HTTP request to the configured webhook URL. Developers use webhooks to receive notifications about events within their applications. For example, a developer could use a webhook to be notified when a new user signs up for their service.

The webhook request will typically contain information about the event that triggered it. This information can be used to take action within the receiving application, such as updating a database or sending a notification. In some cases, the webhook may also trigger an action on the source site. For example, a webhook could be used to deploy application code when it is pushed to a repository automatically.

Best Practices When Implementing Webhooks

Webhooks are a great way to get real-time data from your web application. They are perfect for automating tasks or getting notified when something happens in your app. Webhook traffic is described as a request that is initiated by an event. The request is then forwarded to the URL that you have configured for the webhook.

However, to reliably and efficiently use webhooks, there are some best practices to keep in mind when setting them up. The webhook best practices will ensure that your webhooks are working as intended and that you are getting the most out of them. When configuring webhooks for your application, security should be your top priority. Here are some best practices to follow when implementing webhooks:

Provide Developers With Sample Code to Authenticate Webhook Requests

One of the most important things to do when setting up webhooks is to provide developers with sample code to authenticate webhook requests. This will ensure that only legitimate requests are processed and that any malicious requests are ignored.

There are a few different ways to authenticate webhook requests. The most common method is to use a shared secret. This is a piece of data known only to the server and the client. When a webhook request is made, the shared secret is used to calculate a hash. This hash is then compared to the one sent with the request. If they match, then the request is considered to be authentic.

Another method that can be used to authenticate webhook requests is to sign them with a digital signature. This signature is generated using a private key that is known only to the server. The client then verifies the signature using the server's public key. This method is more secure than using a shared secret, but it is also more complicated to set up.

Webhooks are incredibly powerful tools that enable your application to receive real-time updates from other applications or services. However, because webhooks involve sending potentially sensitive data over the internet, it's essential to take steps to ensure that your webhook endpoints are as secure.

Keep Your Webhook Endpoints Secure

Webhook endpoints are URLs configured on a system to receive data sent by an HTTP callback. Webhook endpoints are a potential attack vector for malicious actors. If an attacker can guess or brute force the URL of a webhook endpoint, a request can be sent to that endpoint and potentially cause damage.

As a preventative measure, it is crucial to keep your webhook endpoints secure. One way to do this is to use a randomly generated string as the endpoint URL. This will make it much harder for an attacker to guess the URL of the endpoint.

Another way to keep your webhook endpoint secure is to use HTTPS for all communication. This will ensure that all the webhook payload passing between the server and the client is encrypted. It also prevents anyone from eavesdropping on the transmission and potentially intercepting sensitive data.

The third step is consumer verification of the client before processing any requests. This can be done using a shared secret or a digital signature. Whichever method you choose, make sure that it is secure and that only trusted clients are able to access your webhook endpoint.

Configure To Receive Specific Webhook Events

When configuring your webhooks, you should only receive the business process events in which you are interested. There is no need to receive all events for all of your users as it will just result in extra work for you and could lead to missed events if you are not paying attention.

Instead, only configure your webhooks to receive the specific events in which you have interest. This way, you can be sure that you will only receive the events that you care about and that you will be able to process them in a timely manner.

Utilize the Network Time Protocol To Prevent Replay Attacks

Another critical webhook best practice when setting up is to utilize the Network Time Protocol (NTP). This protocol is used to synchronize the clocks of computers over a network.

Using NTP will help to prevent replay attacks. A replay attack is where an attacker intercepts a webhook request and then re-sends it at a later time. If the clocks on the server and the client are not synchronized, the attacker could potentially resend the request before it has been processed. This could lead to the same event being processed more than once.

By using NTP, you can be sure that the clocks on the server and the client are synchronized. This will prevent replay attacks and ensure that each webhook request is processed only once. The use of NTP is vital when processing time-sensitive data.

Pay Attention to Delivery Attempt Data and Metrics

When setting up webhooks, paying attention to the delivery attempt data and metrics is essential. This data can be used to troubleshoot any problems you are having with webhooks. Delivery attempt data is defined as information about each time webhook notifications are sent from the server to the client.

This data can be used to determine if there are any problems with the connection between the server and the client. It can also be used to determine if there are any problems with the webhook endpoint itself by reviewing already-logged events.

By paying attention to this data, you can be sure that your webhooks are being delivered successfully. This will help to prevent any missed events and ensure that your webhooks are working as intended. The delivery attempt data will tell you how many times a webhook request has been made and whether or not it was successful. This data can be used to identify any problems with the webhooks.

The webhook metrics will tell you how long it is taking for the webhook requests to be processed. This information can be used to identify any error in the system. By paying attention to the delivery attempt data and metrics, you can be sure that your webhooks are working correctly and that they are being processed promptly.

Why Do We Use Webhooks

Now that we have covered some of the webhook best practices for configuration, let's take a look at why we use them. Webhooks are a great way to get real-time data from an external source. They are also a good way to keep your own internal data up-to-date.

For example, let's say that you have a website that sells products. Every time a product is sold, you could use a webhook to send the order information to your internal system. The information received from the website could then be used to update the inventory in your internal system. This would ensure that your inventory is always up-to-date.

Another example of why webhooks are useful is if you have a blog. Every time a new post is published, a webhook could be used to send the information to your mailing list. This would ensure that your subscribers are always updated on the latest posts.

Webhooks are also a good way to get real-time data from an external source. For example, let's say that you want to track the stock price of a company. You could use a webhook to get the information from an external source and then display it on your website. This would allow you to get the latest information without constantly refreshing the page. The following text describes two major ways on how to use webhooks.

To Receive Different Event Types

Webhooks are essential to receive different event types. Events are defined as any actions that take place on your website or application.

Some examples of events include:

  • A user signs up for an account
  • A user adds an item to their shopping cart
  • A user completes a purchase

If you are not using webhooks, then you will not be able to receive these events in real-time. For example, let's say that you have a web application that allows users to sign up for an account. Whenever a user signs up for an account, you could use a webhook to send an email to the user. This would allow you to receive different event types and take action based on those events.

To Store Information Securely

Webhooks can also be used to store information securely. For example, let's say that you have a web application that allows users to input sensitive information. You could use a webhook to send that information to your internal system. This would allow you to store the information securely and not have to worry about it being intercepted by an attacker.

Authentication With Webhooks

Another best practice when setting up webhooks is to use authentication. When you use authentication, you can be sure that only authorized users are able to access the data.

There are many different ways to authenticate with webhooks. One popular way is to use an authentication tokens system. With this system, you would generate a token for each user. The user would then include the token in the webhook request. This would allow you to verify that the user is authorized to access the data.

Another way to authenticate with webhooks is to use an application programming interface (API) secret key. The API secrets would be used to sign each webhook request. This would allow you to verify that the request came from a trusted source.

Examples of Platforms That Use Webhooks in Their Development Process

Many platforms use webhooks in their development process to achieve different goals. The following are some examples and use cases of webhooks explained.

Shopify

Shopify is a popular e-commerce platform. Shopify uses webhooks to keep track of events that happen on the platform. When a customer makes a purchase, Shopify uses a webhook to send the order information to the merchant. This allows the merchant to keep track of their sales and fulfill their orders on time.

Shopify also uses webhooks to keep apps in sync with shop data or perform an action after a specific event occurs. Webhooks are a more efficient alternative to constantly polling for changes to data via an API server.

Discord

Discord is a voice, video, and text chat app. It uses webhooks to send messages and data updates to a text channel in your server. By creating a webhook endpoint in your server, you'll generate a webhook URL that you can drop into a number of other services to link the two.

For example, you could set up a webhook endpoint in your server to send a message to a Discord channel whenever someone made a post on your blog. Or, you could use a webhook to automatically keep a channel in your Discord server updated with the latest sports scores.

Mailchimp

Mailchimp is a popular email marketing platform. Mailchimp uses webhooks to keep track of events that happen on the platform. Mailchimp uses a webhook to send the subscription information to the list owner when a user subscribes to a list.

Webhooks are also helpful tools that can be used to collect information about audience changes in Mailchimp as they happen. By entering a valid URL that is set up to accept HTTPS POST requests, you can receive updates on subscriptions, changed email addresses, campaign sending, and more. Webhook can also be used to keep your client's profile data in sync with your database, detect when an email address starts bouncing, or alert your application when a campaign has finished sending.

How You Can Implement Webhooks Into Your Authentication or Development Strategies

Now that you know what webhooks are and how they can be used, you may be wondering how you can implement them into your authentication or development strategies.

One way to use webhooks is to set up a webhook endpoint in your server. This endpoint would be responsible for handling all webhook requests. The endpoint would need to be able to authenticate the request and process the data. Once the request is authenticated, the endpoint will take the appropriate action.

Another way to use webhooks is to use them as part of your authentication strategy. Webhooks can be used to verify that a user is authorized to access data. One way to do this is to use a secret key. The secret key would be used to sign each webhook request allowing you to verify that the request came from a trusted source.

If you're looking for a flexible, multi-factor authentication service that can easily integrate with your webhook endpoints, Clerk is here to help. Clerk is the leading authentication and authorization services provider in the industry. Try Clerk for free today and learn how to implement authentication into your security strategy.

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