Almost EVERYONE who tried headless systems said they saw benefits. Download the state of CMS now!

Storyblok now on AWS Marketplace: Read more

O’Reilly Report: Decoupled Applications and Composable Web Architectures - Download Now

Empower your teams & get a 582% ROI: See Storyblok's CMS in action

Skip to main content

Complete explanation of Webhook vs API: Which is better?

Olena Teselko
Try Storyblok

Storyblok is the first headless CMS that works for developers & marketers alike.

Any website, mobile app, or other online service is a complex organism consisting of multiple tools that shape the user experience together. Any business wants to integrate the most up-to-date email service, track user actions, connect payment options, and more. Here is when API and webhooks step into the game. However, these terms might be confusing, so if you want to understand them better, keep reading.

Section titled What is an API? What is an API?

API stands for Application Programming Interface. Simply said, this is a messenger for sending requests from one application to another and getting a response. It allows different software to communicate and share information. 

How it works: Application A sends the request to get some data from Application B. Application B decides whether to share this data and then sends it back to Application A. 

This request-response cycle is typically handled via HTTP protocol. The overall concept is that several programs can communicate with each other even if they are written in different programming languages. To do this, Application A sends an HTTP request (it could be GET, POST, DELETE, PUT etc), and Application B responds with the desired data in a machine-readable format, typically XML or JSON.

Section titled What is a webhook? What is a webhook?

Webhook is a one-way, event-driven type of communication between two APIs or apps. It uses the HTTP-based callback, making sending the data very lightweight. Another difference is that it sends data only in one direction and doesn't need a request to do so. Instead, webhook makes it automatically. That's why webhooks are often called "reverse APIs."

How it works: An event happens in application A, and the data about it is automatically delivered to application B via webhook. For example, the content editor wants to publish content using a CMS, and it’s possible to set up the notification via webhook in the external system that the content is published. The webhook also contains a payload with some helpful information for the target system to retrieve additional information (for example, the content just published). In this case, hitting the  "publish" button was a trigger, and there was no need to send any requests – the data was just transferred from one place to another. 

illustration of difference between Webhook vs. API

Webhook vs. API: the difference on the technical side

The fundamental idea is that there is no better solution: there is no need to choose between Webhook vs. API. Both are great technologies; the only difference is how they are used and what functions they must accomplish.

Section titled API use case: Powerful integrations API use case: Powerful integrations

If you need to send data back and forth from a CMS to various apps, API is what you need. 

While APIs are able to send data in both directions, they can also modify it by performing so-called "CRUD" (Create, Read, Update and Delete) operations between two applications. That means that APIs can do much more than just showing data, they can also make changes to it directly in the place where this data is stored. 

In a nutshell, API is a tool that significantly expands the functionality of the CMS or any other software by connecting them with multiple integrations.

Storyblok is an API-first CMS, meaning that you can integrate any third-party tools into our content management system to get all the needed features. The key concept of an API-first CMS is that it allows businesses to take a best-of-breed approach. Choosing the most powerful tools helps companies to build exceptional user experiences, which is highly important in today's competitive environment.

Section titled Webhook use case: Lightweight data transfer Webhook use case: Lightweight data transfer

Using a webhook is the best option when you need to simply push data from one app to another. 

There are multiple ways to use webhooks, depending on your needs. You can either build your own logic to process webhooks or send them to a specific service to activate build scripts (like Netlify or Vercel) or a notification service (such as Slack or Discord).

Typically, webhooks are used for such tasks:

  • notifications
  • data synchronization
  • workflow automation
  • custom integrations
  • real-time data processing

Storyblok provides a list of webhooks for communicating with third-party applications. In order to make it happen, you only need to provide a list of endpoints, aka apps that you want to connect. After that, each time content is updated or published within the CMS, Storyblok will notify all that endpoints. This approach is beneficial when you want to clean a cache or start the build process whenever new content is published.

Section titled 5 ways to use webhooks with Storyblok 5 ways to use webhooks with Storyblok

Storyblok users have access to both APIs and webhooks, and here is a list of the most popular webhook use-cases:

1. Content Notifications

Every time the stories are published or unpublished, you can configure the notification to be sent to an external app.

2. Workflow Automation

Get notifications when the workflow stage is changed. For instance, it can be a change from "drafting" to "approval" or "ready to publish".Storyblok users have access to both APIs and webhooks, and here is a list of the most popular webhook use-cases:

3. Tracking the Pipeline

At Storyblok, pipeline stages are read-only, so they can be used to securely deploy your content and allow your editors to change their content in a release workflow setup. For example, you define a pipeline stage deployment as a trigger for a webhook.

4. Monitor Releases

The release app within Storyblok also uses webhooks to send notifications about new content. For example, a trigger could be when a release is merged into the currently released content.

5. Tracking Tasks

Automated tasks can be created with the Task App and sent off to run a webhook. Tasks are triggered from the user interface by clicking the "Execute" button. To configure a webhook using the Task App, you need to create a new task. 

Section titled What to choose: Webhook vs API? What to choose: Webhook vs API?

As you now know, there is no need to choose between these two technologies as you can connect different apps using both of them, depending on the result you want to get. However, selecting the right CMS is more critical as it's a core of the whole architecture, and at the end of the day, it will shape the entire user experience. 

Storyblok allows users to connect multiple integrations using both APIs and Webhooks so you can build the best-of-breed infrastructure for your business.