The extensive interconnectedness of our world should be overwhelming… but we tend not to notice. It has become par for the course to be able to take a photo on your phone, have it automatically uploaded to Dropbox, and access it from your laptop in a few moments.
What we do notice, however, is when we want to connect things that aren’t connected. Let’s say you come across a YouTube video that you want to check out sometime, but you never check your Watch Later list, you check Pocket regularly… It should be possible in this day and age to connect these things together, right?
Sure, you can learn programming and hack these two applications (though you might end up being prosecuted for that)… You can wait until the designers of such apps or websites make it possible to integrate these things (good luck with that!)… Or you can use IFTTT.
IFTTT (pronounced “ift”, rhymes with “gift”) is a platform designed by Linden Tibbets and Jesse Tane, launched in 2010. The name derives from the basic structure of the conditional statement used in natural and programming languages: “If this, then that”, which is basically what it does.
It allows you to create an interaction (called an “applet”) where an event (called a “trigger”) in an app, website, platform, or device (which IFTTT calls “services”) evokes a response (called an “action”) in another unconnected service. So, if this “trigger” happens, then that “action” follows.
Sad to say, you’re a little late to that party!
As of January 2019, IFTTT has 11 million users and 54 million applets connecting 550 services, running at a rate of 1 billion applets a month.
IFTTT allows you to create interactions in the form of applets. You choose from one of 550 partnered services, and choose a trigger in that service. Then you choose a target service, and choose an action to take place when the trigger occurs. All of these choices are from dropdowns.
So, let’s say you have a Fitbit fitness tracker that you use to track your sleep. You also have Phillips Hue light bulbs in your bedroom. You want to have them light up only when you’ve hit your sleep target regardless of what time it is. This is where IFTTT shines!
In addition to being able to create your own applet, you can likewise search the applets others have created. Since other people might have had your very same need, it’s likely an applet carrying out your required function already exists. You can search directly for an applet, or browse all applets created for a certain service.
An interesting feature that IFTTT offers is the ability to suggest. You can suggest services that are not yet included, you can suggest triggers for the services already there, or you can suggest actions.
That is no easy question to answer, due to the vast selection. IFTTT has categorized its services into more than 30 categories, examples of which are mentioned below, along with a service in that category, and a trigger and action for each service.
|Appliances||GE Appliances Dishwasher||Dishwasher cycle is over||Start dishwasher program|
|Blinds||Link Shades||N/A||Open Shades|
|Blogging||WordPress||A new post is made||Publish a post|
|Bookmarking||New item is added||Save for Later|
|Calendars and scheduling||Google Calendar||Respond to an event invite||Create an event|
|Cloud Storage||Dropbox||New photo in your folder||Append to a text file|
Other categories and services include:
The possibilities really are endless, but here are some suggestions:
This is one of the best things about IFTTT… It’s free! Some services pay a fee to integrate with IFTTT (like BMW), but the app is free for users.
Zapier provides a similar solution to IFTTT. It allows the creation of 2-step applets (called “Zaps”) for free, with the creation of multistep Zaps and certain services being restricted to subscribed users. Subscription is $20 for individuals, and $250 for teams. Zapier supports more than 1000 services.
Microsoft – not to be outdone – has its own platform called Flow. Its perspective is slightly different, though, as it focuses more on business and productivity apps. It currently only supports 239 services, and is free for 750 applet runs (called “Flows”) a month, with a few services restricted for subscribers. Subscription plans are at $5 and $15 a month, providing 4500 or 15000 Flows respectively.
Other options include Tasker for Android, Wappwolf Automator for Dropbox, Automate.io as an alternative to Zapier, Workflow for Apple products and services, and Huginn which requires some programming background to run.
The interesting thing is that the action in one platform could serve as a trigger in another creating a chain of apps and services. This can be used to bridge the gaps in supported services across platforms. So, technically you can have the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supported by IFTTT send an email message via Gmail whenever there’s a new food safety update, the email would create a Google contact through Flow, which could elicit the creation of a contact in Agile CRM through Zapier. Each of these apps is exclusive to that platform, with Google apps acting as a bridge, being common to all.
It truly is a small world we live in.