Thursday, May 28, 2009

Web Hooks and the Programmable World of Tomorrow

"I guess that Web Hooks are now officially the Next Big Thing." - Tim Bray

What are Web Hooks and why are they the "lightning bolts of cloud computing"? Web APIs and mashups have been popular in the world of Web 2.0. In fact at the time of my last post on the Top 10 APIs for Web Mashups in 2007 there were ~500 APIs listed on ProgrammableWeb. Today the number of APIs listed are more than 1.300 and mashups has passed the milestone of 4.000!

Web hooks are user-defined callbacks over HTTP. They’re intended to, in a sense, “jailbreak” our web applications to become more extensible, customizable, and ultimately more useful. Conceptually, web applications only have a request-based “input” mechanism: web APIs. They lack an event-based output mechanism, and this is the role of web hooks. People talk about Unix pipes for the web, but they forget: pipes are based on standard input and standard output. Feeds are not a sufficient form of output for this, which is partly why Yahoo Pipes was not the game changer some people expected. Instead, we need adoption of a simple, real-time, event-driven mechanism, and web hooks seem to be the answer. Web hooks are bringing a new level of event-based programming to the web.

Jeff Lindsay ( ) at Google talking about Web Hooks. Slides here.

His talk introduces the concept of web hooks: simple HTTP callbacks with huge implications. This model allows web services to be customized by the user and tightly integrated with each other unlike anything before. Chock-full of demos and real world examples, this talk also shares an under-appreciated vision of the web that most of the experts have missed: a vision of user-generated functionality and the *real* programmable web.

Who is using web hooks today?

A rapidly expanding list of some of the companies or projects which provide Web hooks in their applications.
  • DevjaVu
  • BitBucket
  • GitHub
  • Shopify
  • SurveyGizmo
  • Versionshelf
  • PayPal (Instant Payment Notification)
  • Jott (Links)
  • PBwiki
  • Google Code
  • PubSubHubbub
The concept of webhooks is another innovation milestone on our way to the world of Web 3.0.

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