Webhooks — The Undiscovered Automation Booster

Tim Marsh
Tim Marsh
Apr 24, 2018 · 5 min read

tl;dr Webhooks are a powerful web API that push source website data as soon as it’s available. They are vastly underused due to implementation difficulties. A new SaaS provided by ViaSocket simplifies webhook implementation and is set to significantly increase their usage.

Automate or Get Left Behind

Of the many important factors that determine the success of a business, efficiency is always near the top of the list. Scalability is never far behind it. And the latest tool to achieve both is automation. Just like mechanical automation boosted civilisation into far greater levels of productivity during the industrial revolution, task automation is boosting administrative and online productivity. Companies that aren’t preparing to automate today, are at risk of losing their competitive edge.

Everything that a business does repetitively and is based on logical decisions using digital information should be automated. This enables staff to use their time more productively, gets tasks done faster, and reduces human error. But for a long time, the cost and effort required to setup automation was higher than the cost of doing the task manually. Over the last five years, this cost has been falling dramatically because companies are solving problems and providing tools to make it easier.

Connecting Your Information Sources

Often the most difficult part of automating a task is connecting different services. Social media platforms aren’t designed to talk with Customer Relationship Managers, which don’t communicate with other online datasets. Recently online service providers have started bridging the gaps, but the solutions they offer are aimed at the simple tasks, and limited so that they don’t confuse the general public. Services like IFTTT and Zapier do a great job of connecting popular websites and social media services, but when it comes to automating business tasks, they can lack the necessary flexibility.

Connecting online services is not a simple task, and often requires programming and IT skills. This is because companies make their data available using different methods, different security layers, and the data provided uses different structures. An API, or Application Programming Interface, is the collection of rules and functions that enables a program to expose its data and features. Most of these work by waiting for another program to send it a request or command in the correct format, then the API program responds to that event.

A Faster, More Efficient Connection

Webhooks are a special class of API that work in the other direction. Instead of the program that wants the data asking for it over and over again until the required data becomes available, a webhook is an agreement to send the required data when it becomes available. For events that only happen occasionally, this is far more efficient, and often much faster. For example, if an API checked twitter every ten minutes to see if a particular celebrity tweeted, it would check 25,920 times before detecting the first tweet sent in 6 months. And this could be up to ten minutes later than when a webhook would have been informed of the event by Twitter.

In many situations webhooks are far superior, so why aren’t they being used everywhere, by everyone? To understand why, we need to understand a little bit about how they work. Webhooks are event driven. So it is up to the website that has the data to recognise the event, and send out the information. To get this information, the user must provide the source website with a URL that can accept this information. This information often comes as a JSON payload. So the receiver must then be able to respond to the information arriving, interpret it, and respond accordingly. The programming skill required to do this meant that websites often only provide very technical and often confusing ways of setting up a webhook and accepting the destination URL.

Webhooks Simplified and Made Smarter

So for a long time, this powerful tool has been available, but hardly used for the automation processes it was designed to serve. But all of this is about to change. A new startup has created ViaSocket. This is a web tool that provides a range of functions to simplify the process, including:

  • Create webhook destination URLs
  • Respond to webhook events
  • Process the data however the user likes
  • Connect to different APIs
  • And then keep track of all that data flowing around.

So instead of thousands of developers setting up webhooks and API responses, ViaSocket does that work once at each end, and enables developers a limitless variety of ways to connect them intelligently.

This might sound similar to services provided by websites like IFTTT and Zapier, but the difference is in the power that ViaSocket hands over to developers. To create tools that can automate any task, you must be able to design programming flows that can call on a wide range of data and conditions. Socket enables this by providing a code layer that can be used to operate on variables generated automatically out of incoming JSON payloads. And developers can’t afford to wait for their specialised accounting software, or niche webservice to get mainstream support. They need to be able to drop in their own API framework and connect to third-party apps. Socket provides tools to create and manage custom APIs that open up numerous possibilities.

Just the Beginning

This sounds like a game changer, and it really could be, but there is more work to do yet. These powerful tools exposed by ViaSocket still require some programming skills, and getting your desired website to accept a webhook destination URL can still be rather difficult. But as this new company grows, it is committed to making tasks easier, while always keeping the power in the developer’s hands. This will free up the developer from doing repetitive tasks, and enable them to meet the demands of the many teams that depend on them. And by partnering with ViaSocket, developers will be able to reduce the time spent managing APIs when they introduce new protocols or change requirements. Instead, developers can focus on using these new tools to deliver outstanding results for their clients.

About ViaSocket

ViaSocket is a software-as-a-service developed and provided by Walkover. It was created and is maintained by a team of more than 50 programmers and web-service professionals. Their prior experience includes building MSG91 and solutions that process more than 1 billion transactions daily. Walkover began in June 2017 and is based in India. Mr. Pushpendra Agrawal is the CEO.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/viasocket
Website: viasocket.com

Tim Marsh

Written by

Tim Marsh

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