It’s About to Get a Lot Easier for Apps to Talk to Each Other
IFTTT is a handy way of automating your life. You can use the service—the acronym means “if this, then that”—to, say, upload your Instagram photos to Dropbox, save the links you share on Facebook to a bookmarking app, or turn on the lights when your fitness tracker realizes you’re awake. And you can do it without writing a single line of code.
Until now, though, that required going to the IFTTT website or app to set up the necessary connection. Starting today, developers can embed IFTTT within apps and enable users to connect the hundreds of apps that the service supports. That means that the world of apps is about to get a bit more like the web. Just as any website can link to any other website, apps will readily exchange info with other apps.
The self-service version of IFTTT is still around, and CEO Linden Tibbets says it will continue playing an important role. But the new platform could help the service reach infinitely more people—and generate revenue by charging developers to embed IFTTT’s technology.
Of course, tech companies have long offered APIs (application programming interfaces) that let third-party developers build integrations with their apps. The problem is developers must write code to support each app they want to integrate with. IFTTT solves this problem by acting as a hub between different apps.
For example, the financial app Qapital–which has been testing IFTTT’s platform for the past year–makes it easy for people to automatically set aside money for a specific goal under specific circumstances. You can, for example, set aside a few bucks for a pair of skis every time it snows or sock away some vacation money every time you cross something off a to-do list. Without IFTTT, this would require Qapital to write code to monitor weather data, build integrations for myriad task management apps, and so forth. IFTTT eliminates quite a bit of that.
But there is a downside. Unlike the web, which is decentralized, IFTTT is a single company. One that could go away, or change its terms of service. This has become a real problem for app developers in recent years, as crucial cloud services like Facebook’s Parse and PayPal’s StackMob have shut down.
Qapital CEO George Friedman says that’s a risk worth taking. Customers who use Qapital’s IFTTT integrations save about four times as much money as those who don’t, and building those integrations by hand isn’t an option. “We have a lot of infrastructure to build,” he says, “and we could never do what IFTTT does with that quality.”
A fully decentralized solution might be better. But IFTTT is a step forward.