Polling vs. Webhooks: Getting Data in Real-Time

Polling vs. Webhooks: Getting Data in Real-Time

In the world of sharing data between apps and systems, there are two main ways: polling and webhooks. They both help keep data up to date, but they work in different ways. Let’s look at what they are, how they work, and when to use each.

Understanding Polling 🔄

What is Polling? Polling is like asking someone over and over if they have any news. In the digital world, it means one system keeps asking another for updates.

How Does it Work?

  1. Asking for Updates: The client (like your phone) asks the server (like a website) if there are any updates.
  2. Getting a Response: The server replies with the updates or says there are none.
  3. Keep Asking: The client keeps asking at regular intervals, even if there are no updates.

Pros of Polling:

  • Easy: It’s easy to understand and set up, great for beginners.
  • Control: You decide when to check for updates.

Cons of Polling:

  • Uses a Lot of Resources: It can use up unnecessary resources because it keeps checking, even when there are no updates.
  • Delays: It takes time to get updates since it checks at regular intervals.

Unveiling Webhooks 🎣

What are Webhooks? Webhooks are like messages that systems send each other when something happens. Instead of asking for updates all the time, the server tells the client when there’s something new.

How Do They Work?

  1. Signing Up: The client tells the server where to send notifications.
  2. Sending Notifications: When something important happens, the server sends a message to the client right away.
  3. Quick Response: The client gets the message instantly and can react right away.

Pros of Webhooks:

  • Real-Time Updates: You get updates immediately, reducing delays.
  • Efficient: It uses fewer resources because it doesn’t keep asking for updates.
  • Event-Driven: It’s built around events, making the system more responsive.

Cons of Webhooks:

  • A Bit Complicated: It’s a bit more complicated to set up than polling, especially handling errors and security.
  • Security Issues: Exposing an endpoint for webhooks can raise security concerns.

Choosing the Right Approach 🤔

When to Use Polling:

  • Not Many Updates: If updates are rare or unpredictable, polling might be better.
  • Simple Stuff: For simple apps where being quick isn’t as important, polling works fine.

When to Use Webhooks:

  • Need Updates Fast: If you need updates right away, like in messaging apps or live feeds, use webhooks.
  • Built for Events: If your system works around events, webhooks are the way to go.


Polling and webhooks both help keep systems in sync, but they work differently. Polling is easy and gives you control, while webhooks get you updates right away and use fewer resources. Pick the one that fits your app’s needs best, whether you like the persistent checking of polling or the quick messages of webhooks. They both help keep your apps running smoothly in today’s digital world.

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