My older brother (a brilliant man, and one of the best ‘go to guys’ in NY, by the way) introduced me to the concept behind .dos computer programming some quarter-century ago. One bit I remember, besides the ever so simple “run” command, was to write a simple line stating what you wanted to happen. Program a ’cause and effect’, as it were. From memory, it was “if (this) then (that)” – where the programmer added the variables as required. For example, your text could read “if x = 5 then run …” (whatever you wanted to happen next).
Such a simple concept, and yet its simplicity can make it so very powerful when used on a grand scale. Which is exactly what the very clever people behind www.ifttt.com have done. “ifttt”, (pronounced ‘ift’ – like ‘lift’ without the ‘l’) literally stands for “if this then that”, and is based on the premise that users create ‘tasks’ combining a ‘this’ variable with a ‘that’ variable. Simple – and the permutations are endless.
Now comes the genius. Make the ‘variables’ the user’s social network accounts, and the potential becomes incredible.
Want your Facebook updates to be automatically tweeted? How about your Instragram photos posted to Flickr? Maybe you’d like the items you favourite in Google Reader to be delivered straight into your DropBox? Or be sent an SMS to your mobile whenever you receive an email from a particular person, or if it’s going to rain in the morning, or if your stocks go above or below a certain price?
I’m sure you can see the way this is going. The ifttt slogan is “put the internet to work for you” – and I think that’s exactly what they’ve managed to do. By using the statement ‘if this then that’, and allowing users to input their own ‘this’ (called a ‘trigger’) and ‘that’ (called an ‘action’) to create a person specific ‘task’, I’d say they’ve hit the nail on the head when it comes to making the Internet work for people. You can even turn tasks off and on, or browse others’ tasks, held in the database of ‘recipes’, to use for yourself. Amazing stuff! And, if worse comes to worst, their customer service is surprisingly phenomenal, as I wrote about yesterday.
So. What can you see that you could use it for? How could ifttt make your life easier? Personally, I see no real end in sight for its usefulness. And I’ll be blogging more about the how-to’s of using it in future posts. Stay tuned!
CC Image courtesy cubicgarden at http://www.flickr.com/photos/cubicgarden/335772194/