A webhook is an API concept that’s growing in popularity. Webhook (also called a Web Callback or HTTP push API) is a way for an app to provide other applications with real-time information. A webhook delivers data to other applications as it happens, meaning you get data immediately. Unlike typical APIs where you would need to poll for data very frequently in order to get it real-time. This makes webhooks much more efficient for both provider and consumer.
Given that you may not have a second chance to receive a webhook, you need to properly test the webhook systems so that they can process all requests without any errors. Webhooks Testing also comes in handy when you’re trying to scale up your infrastructure in a way that meets the webhook demands.
This article will name the best Webhooks Testing Tools along with the challenges you might face when you try to test webhooks.
Table of Contents
Introduction to Webhook
Have you seen a graph/numbers updating themselves on their own or certain parts of a webpage updating themselves based on an event and when the server-side values change?
These functions are basically implemented using webhooks, which are a background connection( hook) to a web server. Webhooks allow third-party services to send real-time updates to apps running on your phone too.
Webhooks are “user-defined HTTP callbacks”, triggered by certain events, which make an HTTP POST request to a webserver to get the latest data/updates. Here, the webserver can be different from the one that served the original enclosing webpage.
This functionality can be extended to cause events on a third-party website based on changes on a backend server. Essentially a change in the originating system triggers the related change in all systems that subscribed to the originating change event.
Webhooks find usage in tracking and management systems, commerce networks, online markets and exchanges, and continuous integration systems.
Learn more about Webhooks.
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Difference between Webhook and API
APIs need you to send requests to the API to pull the latest data. On its own, the API is just RESTing, you need to poll it to get what you need. So, to stay abreast with the latest data, you have to poll them frequently, often multiple times in a minute.
This causes delays and burdens the API server with many client requests hitting it continuously. Even when no data is there, you need to poll the API to know that nothing has been updated.
With webhooks, all this is simplified, you’re sent the latest updates as they happen and no update means nothing important has happened.
Nuances, Challenges, and Bottlenecks in webhook Testing and Development
Since webhooks, by and large, belong to an open federated system, there are certain unique security, accessibility, and throughput constraints; that they need to address. Also, as the messages travel through the internet, encryption and authentication must be addressed.
Developers implement these functions in their code with a view to addressing these issues. In this post, we will discuss how to test that the required functionality has been achieved, and critical issues are taken care of.
Most tools for Webhook tests provide you with a unique request URL where you send your webhook requests, in order to test them. You can generate many requests with varying payloads, and direct them to hit the request URL( also called Listener or Endpoint).
RequestBin allows you to create a requestbin, which essentially is a listener( or Endpoint) used for webhooks Testing of requests.
While Webhooks testing, requests will hit this listener URL or Endpoint. The endpoint will collect all these requests, inspects them, and provides statistics, to help debug your webhooks.
This endpoint can be configured to send responses based on the request parameters that it receives. Requests can be generated via browser or programming languages like Curl/Go/PHP/Ruby etc.
This way one can execute the webhook test online so that the webhook is received by the endpoint and the intended payload is delivered.
Also, confirmatory responses can be sent based on received request payloads. The event source or trigger can be an email or a cron scheduler or an HTTP webhook.
RequestBin ensures that your requests are properly formatted, allows you to generate payloads, and does not get overwhelmed when request volume increases.
Alternatively, you can also receive your webhooks testing requests, the ones you plan to subscribe to, on the RequestBin endpoint. The endpoint will show you all the headers, query-string, and the raw body of what is received.
This way you get an idea of what to expect when you test webhook online and plan your applications accordingly.
- Provides a free account, if you want your tests to remain private you have to pay.
- Integrates well with many other services and allows you to create requestbins for Github/Dropbox/Typeform/Twitter/GoogleDrive/AWS SES/Slack etc.
- Provides preconfigured Triggers for these services, like a new upload in Github/new Item in RSS feed/Start of a meeting in Xoom etc.
- Well documented with good support
- Large and active developer community
- If using the free account, your webhooks testing becomes public, or at least RequestBin has a right to show them to others.
- The test is named “Untitled” on a free account, so it’s a bit tedious to share it with others and manage if you have multiple endpoints.
- Encryption and HTTPS can be used in paid mode only
HTTPie, pronounced aitch-tee-tee-pie, is an easy-to-use command-line tool that can be used for Webhooks testing as well as API testing.
For those who prefer command-line tools; for their simplicity, fine-grained control, and detailed output logs; HTTPie can be a good option. The calls are made to the URL httpie.io, providing the parameters
The general syntax to be used at the command line is:-
HTTPie assumes JSON to be the default notation, to the extent that it can detect JSON even if the Content-Type is incorrectly specified as text/plain
There are many advanced features that make HTTPie powerful and convenient.
- Complex or lengthy parameters can be passed in a file in JSON format
http POST pie.dev/post < /home/user/myfiles/data.json
- –offline option allows you to construct your command line HTTP requests without sending them. This option can be used to construct complex command input and play around with them, you can submit them after you’re confident about their accuracy, by just removing the –offline tag.
Its also used for documentation, debugging, and exploring dry runs or runs which will be executed on many endpoints.
- You can easily submit forms using the –form, -f option.
http --form POST pie.dev/post name='John Smith'
- You can easily upload files using the cv@~ option, OR submit multi-part form data
http -f POST pie.dev/post name='John Smith'
The above command is the same as a multi-part form submit a request as detailed below.
<form enctype="multipart/form-data" method="post" action="pie.dev/post">
<input type="text" name="name" />
<input type="file" name="datafile" />
- Another corollary of the same option is to use “=@”, to embed a file’s contents as the regular text field value.
http -f POST pie.dev/post name='John Smith' address:=@/home/user/myfiles/address.json
- HTTPie also allows you to define proxies via environment variables like ALL_PROXY, HTTP_PROXY, and HTTPS_PROXY, etc.
You can also create a <i> config.json file, when HTTPie sees it, this file will be used as its configuration file.
- It supports SSL communication, and you can specify your custom CA bundle path via the <i> –verify=<CA_BUNDLE_PATH> option.
Your client-side certificate for the SSL communication can be specified via the <i>–cert option
http --verify=/ssl/custom_ca_bundle https://example.org
http --cert=client.pem https://example.org
- Programmers favorite as it gives transparency in terms of the parameters sent and responses received, everything is in the foreground.
- Provides fine-grained control.
- As you construct your command line requests, some obvious optimizations and errors become easily evident.
- Supports Basic and Digest authentication methods
- Can be error-prone if you are not used to command-line interfaces
- Can be tedious for the non-experienced user or for a user in a hurry
If you rather prefer GUI tools, then the next tool we discuss is another option for you.
Postman is a platform that enables API design, development, Webhooks testing as well as documentation. It provides you with tools for the complete API lifecycle, including sharing and discoverability of your APIs.
We will just discuss the tools postman provides for webhooks testing.
Postman’s monitoring service allows you to test your APIs and also perform Webhooks testing. Postman monitors are based on collections. A collection is a group of your Webhooks ( or API calls) that can be run one after another, to be tested. You can also attach a corresponding environment with variables you’d like to utilize during each collection run.
Once a collection is created you can start adding requests(webhooks) to your collection, also you can add authorization config/pre-request/test script code, and any variables you
want to share across all requests in the collection.
You can also attach a corresponding environment with variables you’d like to utilize during each collection run.
An environment here is a set of variables, constants, URLs, etc. You can provide custom parameters that are auto-populated by Postman, and fed to the test run. It’s a replacement for using global variables which lets you control the visibility of your data values within your workspace and team.
You can have separate environments for development/ webhooks testing/production etc. Also, you can share your environments with different teams, as and when the need arises.
Moreover, different users can have different roles within an environment. Environment variables can be set inside your test scripts also.
Next, you can write Test scripts on how to perform your tests, using these collections. While running a collection, Postman will use the test scripts to make sure that the responses received are as expected. It will flag anomalies, send emails/Slack notifications when tests fail.
- A powerful and multi-faceted development environment can be used for all your API development practices.
- Allows collaboration and tracking in a multi-team environment.
- Enables design, development, and testing of other programs working alongside your Webhooks.
- Most advanced services are paid and there are Usage limits based on the plan subscribed to.
- Could be overkill if you just want to test a small webhooks-based application.
To conclude, we have discussed 3 very different tools for Webhooks Testing. We hope this blog can be helpful for you in choosing the right webhooks testing tool based on your current needs.
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Share your experience of learning about Webhooks Testing Tools in the comments section below.