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What is a webhook?

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Developers 3 min read | Sinch Messagemedia wrote in blog on November 15, 2023

Put simply, a webhook is a method of communication used in web development and various online services, that is triggered by specific events. Imagine if your application could receive a phone call whenever something noteworthy happens elsewhere on the web.

That’s exactly what webhooks do. They notify your application instantly when a particular event occurs, prompting it to respond with a specific action.

How does a webhook work?

With a traditional system, your application would have to constantly check or ‘poll’ other services for updates. This is not only inefficient, but it also doesn’t provide real-time updates. Webhooks, on the other hand, reverse this process. 

Webhooks rely on HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) to transmit data. When an event occurs, the sending system requests an HTTP POST to a predefined URL, often called the “callback URL.” This URL points to the receiver’s endpoint, where it expects to receive data.

Basically, when a specific event happens, the data related to the event are sent immediately to a URL designated by your application. This automated information exchange allows web applications to communicate with each other in real time.

What are some common use cases?

  1. Real-time updates. Social media platforms use webhooks to instantly notify users of new messages, likes, or comments.
  2. Ecommerce. Online stores employ webhooks to update inventory levels, process orders, and send order status notifications.
  3. Notifications. Messaging apps use webhooks to deliver real-time notifications, such as chat messages or friend requests.
  4. IoT (Internet of Things). Webhooks are essential for collecting sensor data from IoT devices and triggering actions based on sensor readings.

Setting up webhooks.

Setting up webhooks involves three primary steps: 

  1. Create a webhook endpoint. This is a URL in your application that will receive the webhooks. It should be an API endpoint that is capable of processing POST requests, as POST is the HTTP method generally used by webhooks.
  2. Register the webhook endpoint with the provider. The webhook provider needs to know where to send the webhooks. This usually involves going to the provider’s dashboard or settings page and adding your endpoint URL to the webhooks section. You might also need to specify which events you want to subscribe to.
  3. Implement the logic for received webhooks. Once your application receives a webhook, it needs to know what to do with the data. This could be anything from updating a user’s email address to processing a payment. The logic you implement will depend entirely on your application’s specific needs.

Remember to secure your webhooks to ensure that incoming requests are indeed from the provider. This usually involves verifying signatures that webhook providers include in their requests.

How to use webhooks with SMS.

Using webhooks with SMS is a powerful way to integrate real-time communication into your applications. To get started, you’ll need to sign up with an SMS service provider that supports webhooks, like Sinch MessageMedia.

  1. First, set up a webhook endpoint on your server to receive incoming SMS data.
  2. Once your webhook is in place, configure your SMS service provider to send a webhook notification whenever a new SMS is received. This notification will typically include essential information such as the sender’s phone number, the message content, and a timestamp.
  3. You can then process this data in real-time, enabling various actions like automated replies, storing message history, or triggering specific events based on incoming SMS content.

By using webhooks with SMS, you can create dynamic, interactive, and responsive SMS-based applications that enhance your communication capabilities.

Ready to roll?

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