Much Ado About Nothing

If this then that

A few days ago, I discovered a really neat webservice: If this then that. It allows you to combine different on line services and tools to do cool stuff. Okay, that probably sounds pretty much nonsensical, but the idea is brilliant.

These days, we’re using a wide array of services: Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, our blogs, GMail, Gtalk,… If I would name any big on line service, chances good you’re going to be registered with it.

Sometimes, if we do stuff on one service, we would like our actions to trigger something somewhere else. Getting your Twitter tweets published on Facebook is a typical example.

Breaking boundaries and passing data between services isn’t that hard from a technological point of view. Major services provide tools for developers to do just that. The last mile, enabling users to wield that power through an easy interface, is the hardest problem to solve

Today, there are loads of applications out there to make live easier. Think of the various Facebook applications that allow you to hook stuff from Blogger to your Facebook account. Some perform better then others, but most of them are just limited in what they do. The odd power user is probably going to try and combine different tools, but you and me are just happy if we get it just configured right.

The first problem is the user experience (UX). When you want to channel data from one service to the other, you have to configure it at either or one of both sides. Which makes for a lot of clicking through different interfaces. And, if you’re unlucky, a bit of searching in the settings to find out if service x or y supports what you want to do.

The second problem is combining data. Google and Facebook make it easy for developers to do cool things with their data, but building something that lets’ others combine things the way they see fit, that’s another ball game. Most applications will allow anyone to connect with them, but out of the box only pair with a limited number of renowned services.

Enter: If this then that.

It lets you create different rules: “if this happens, then that should be done”. If I post an article on my blog, then create a status message with a link on my Facebook profile. That through a clean, simple, no thrills interface.

If this then that

What about the number of combinations? Iftt links up with 30 services or channels like Gmail, Tumblr, WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, SMS, Foursquare,… Depending on the channels you like to pair up, you can choose from a range of triggers and actions.

So far, iftt is probably the best attempt at cracking the UX and the interoperability problems in one blow.

iftt is still in closed beta. When you sign up, you’ll just have to wait if the developers approve your request for an account. I have 5 invites left. If you’re curious and you want to try it out yourself: just let me know in the comments.

Wanna know more? Check the about page!