What if you could get an email alert the moment someone posts two tickets to the sold out concert you’re looking for on Craigslist? Or an SMS each time your mom uploads a new photo to Flickr?
That’s the idea behind IFTTT, If This Then That, a service that lets you connect two different applications together based on specific parameters, which you define.
“I have a deep fascination with design. Not just aesthetic design, but really thinking about how people use products, and then what those products are able to do,” Linden Tibbets, founder of IFTTT told Mashable.
Design changes behavior, and people’s relationships to the world and to each other.”
After getting his start working on video games for EA, Tibbets began working on IFTTT in 2010 by himself in his apartment.
“I got really enthralled with how people react to things in the physical world. Everybody the world over is able to have a quick split-second reaction to what a physical object can be used for,” says Tibbets. “Those kinds of split-second judgments and reactions are missing from the digital world.”
In a world that is quickly becoming overrun with individual apps focused on specific actions, Tibbets wanted to create a tool that would “cut horizontally” through those applications, ultimately giving them all more functionality and making them easier to use.
What IFTTT does
IFTTT lets you create connections between different apps and services through what it calls “recipes.” To create a recipe all you have to do is tell IFTTT what the “This” and the “That” in your equation are.
“We enable really simple connections between two things,” says Tibbets.
The service integrates with a number of different applications, such as Facebook, Instagram, Evernote, Etsy and Craigslist, and offers a sizable amount of integration options for each to get you going.
For instance, you can ask IFTTT to instantly upload any photos you’re tagged in on Facebook to your Flickr account. You could also set the recipe up to email you if you’re tagged in that photo, or send you an SMS.
The service officially launched to the public a little over a year ago, in September 2011.
While Tibbets admits that it’s sort of a “nerdy tool,” one of the company’s main focuses is on making it simple enough that anyone can use it. That mission is demonstrated in the first line of the statement IFTTT uses internally to guide its decisions: “IFTTT enables everyone to take creative control over the flow of information.”
IFTTT is currently used to enable a number of types of connections. “The reaction has been kind of overwhelming,” says Tibbets.
Tibbets says some of his employees use the service to share Instagram photos with family members who aren’t on the service. A simple recipe instantly adds all their Instagram shots to a shared folder Skydrive, which their families do use, where they can be viewed.
IFTTT is even being used to find stolen property.
The service can be used to email you when a bike frame you’re looking for shows up on Craigslist. Recently, an IFTTT user had his bike stolen and set an alert up to be emailed if a bike matching its description hit the web — it did, and he was able to get a notification his stolen bike was on the site, and ultimately got it back.
Continuing to Grow
IFTTT has grown from a one-man operation in Tibbets apartment to an eight-employee business with an office in downtown San Francisco.
The company continues to grow, and plans to expand the service in new ways.
“We’re really excited to add some really cool new channels around things we don’t currently address,” says Tibbets. On deck for the future is sports content, personal finance and ecommerce tools, specifically ways to search for items by price.
The company also plans to make its first foray into the mobile world in the near future, in a way that many might not expect.
While just a digital tool now, Tibbets thinks that in the future IFTTT might enable more than just digital tools.
“We feel pretty confident that at some point you’re not going to be able to buy anything that isn’t connected,” says Tibbets. “The question is ‘What are people going to do with all this stuff?'”
For now, the company is work on adding more connections to the service and making the tool simpler and simpler to use.
Do any of you use IFTTT? Share some of your favorite recipies in the comments.