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Webhooks vs. Kafka

When building modern apps, it's important to be able to handle real-time data. It’s becoming a trend to shift towards using Webhooks or Apache Kafka.

As APIs become more widespread, developers are now looking to receive real-time event data from their API providers. The most common solution for this is webhooks, though this can also be achieved using Kafka.

Which one should you use? It depends.

This guide will help you understand the differences between these two options so you can choose the best one for your needs.

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What is a Webhook?

A webhook is a reverse API, or server to server push notification. They work by sending out an HTTP request to a specified endpoint when an event is triggered. This makes webhooks ideal for integrating two applications.

If you’re not familiar with webhooks, you can learn more about them in this article: What is a webhook?


An e-commerce site sending order updates and shipment tracking to a large number of merchants with varying order volumes is a prime scenario for webhooks. Their flexible, event-driven model allows minimal effort from each merchant.

Likewise, a news site providing article updates to publishers with fluctuating subscriber bases can meet the variable delivery needs using webhooks without overburdening any single publisher.

What is Kafka?

Apache Kafka is an open-source distributed event streaming platform most commonly used for high-performance data pipelines, streaming analytics, and data integration.

Because of the above, Kafka is quite suitable for processing events between services, similar to webhooks.


An online streaming service constantly sending video data to millions of mobile app users, where only a few thousand receive the stream simultaneously, is a good use case for Kafka's efficient high-volume delivery.

Similarly, a social network broadcasting live video feeds can leverage Kafka to handle the high throughput needed for many followers watching the same feed.

Comparing Webhooks and Kafka

Message Volume

Kafka is preferable for constant, high-volume message streams to a limited audience. However, its architecture imposes greater complexity and resource demands.

Webhooks are better suited for varied message volumes sent to a diverse audience.

Flexibility and Ease of use

Webhooks: HTTP-based, simplify integration and reduce operational overhead, making them more flexible and user-friendly.

Kafka: requires more effort and expertise to set up and maintain.

Operational Burden

Kafka's setup and maintenance require substantial effort and expertise, potentially posing challenges for self-serve scenarios.

Webhooks offer a more accessible solution with lower maintenance requirements.

Integration Simplicity: Webhooks are generally considered easier to integrate with other systems than Kafka, owing to their straightforward HTTP callback mechanism.

Learning Curve: Webhooks are simpler to understand and use, making them more accessible for beginners or for simpler applications. Kafka's advanced features and distributed system principles require a steeper learning curve.

Operational Complexity: Kafka is higher due to its robustness and features designed for large-scale operations, which, while powerful, introduce more complexity.

Scalability: Kafka excels in scalability, capable of handling very high volumes of data efficiently, which is a key advantage over webhooks.

Fault Tolerance: Kafka also has high fault tolerance, benefiting from features like replication and partitioning to ensure data integrity and availability.

Which one should you use?

It depends.

Kafka is a more powerful and scalable solution than webhooks, but it comes with greater complexity and operational overhead. Webhooks are a simpler and more user-friendly solution, but they may not be suitable for high-volume message streams.