12 September 2011

Automate and Sync Your Web With ‘If This, Then That’

Automate and Sync Your Web With ‘If This, Then That’:

A few of the many tasks Ifttt can automate for you

The awkwardly named, but fantastically useful, Ifttt.com (short for “if this then that”), has come out of private beta and is now open to everyone. Ifttt is a service that hooks together other web services so that you can automate common tasks like sharing links, saving Instagram photos or responding to Twitter posts. Think of Ifttt as Yahoo Pipes, but simplified, and better looking.

If you’d like to try out the site, head on over to ifttt.com. For some background on how the site came to be, check out the Ifttt blog.

At its most basic level Ifttt is what its founders call “digital duct tape… allowing you to connect any two services together.” On a perfect web Ifttt wouldn’t be necessary, every service would talk to every other service and everything would just work. Obviously that web doesn’t exist, so there’s Ifttt.

The best way to understand how Ifttt works is by example. Let’s say you want to share links with other people on the web. You might store links in Delicious or Pinboard for yourself and then post them to services like Twitter or Facebook for your friends to see. That’s all well and good, but what if you could automate the process? That’s where Ifttt comes in.

The usefulness is in the name — if this, then that. Sticking with the link example, we might create a task that works like this: IF a new link is posted to Delicious, THEN grab the link and post it to Twitter and Facebook.

The basic workflow is to choose a service from the list (which include popular web services like Instagram, Tumblr and Wordpress, or more general tasks like phone calls, SMS or time-based actions). Once you have the “this,” the next step is choosing a trigger. Triggers vary according to the “this” you’ve selected. For example the Delicious triggers include things like “any new public bookmark” or “new bookmark tagged,” while the time option has triggers like “Every day at” or “Every year on.” Once you have your trigger set, you add the “that” portion of Ifttt’s name, which consists of a list of services like the “this” portion.

Maybe links aren’t a particularly interesting use case these days, here’s a better one for the kids: every time you post an image to your Instagram account, have Ifttt.com grab a copy and sync it over to your dropbox folder for instant backups. Or send starred items in Google Reader to Read it Later or Instapaper. Or send yourself an email every time an Orange Bass Cabinet pops up on Craigslist. Or create daily reminders with the time triggers. Or trigger a fake phone call to escape awkward situations.

Because the possibilities of Ifttt can be overwhelming, along with the public launch, Ifttt introduced a new feature called recipes, which are simply a way of sharing your tasks (not the data in the tasks, just the tasks). The site has only been public for a few days and already there are hundreds of recipes.

If you’d like to automate your web, head on over to Ifttt.com and sign up for a free account.

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