Today's Web is brimming with a staggering number of services where users can speak their mind (Twitter), grab vital information (any news or blog source), store important files (Dropbox or Box.net), collaborate with peers (Facebook or Google+), and much more. The dream has long been to devise ways to get these often disparate and siloed services to interact with one another, creating something greater than the sum of its parts.
A new Web application dubbed ifttt.com serves as an excellent yardstick of how far we've come from the early days of specialized, single-purpose mashups, or more complicated SOA where services were cobbled together with complex tools and the coding equivalent of duct tape.
Ifttt.com -- "ifttt" stands for "if this, then that" -- draws on the wealth of APIs for many of today's most popular Web services; it serves as a hub through which users can easily get separate services to work in tandem and carry out incredibly useful, time-saving tasks, called recipes.
Here's how it works: First, you choose a trigger, a specific event that takes place in one of the support services or channels. Currently, ifttt.com claims 35 channels, including Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Dropbox, WordPress, Foursquare, YouTube, Last.fm, LinkedIn, a stock feed via Yahoo Financial, and more. Now that Google+ has introduced an API, you can expect it be added to the mix. I wouldn't be surprised to see Spotify, too.
For example, a trigger might be someone tagging you in a picture on Facebook. It could be your creating a new post on WordPress or adding a new follower on Twitter. It could be you starring a favorite article, blog post, or song. A trigger might even be a stock reaching a certain price or a forecast for snow or rain the next day.
You can refine your trigger, too. Suppose you want only certain tweets to be posted to your Facebook status page; you can have your trigger look for a particular hashtag. If the hashtag is there, it will carry out the action.
Next, you choose an action that you want a trigger to launch using a second channel. If your trigger is someone tagging you in a picture on Facebook, your action might be to have that picture automatically added to your local Dropbox folder. If your trigger is creating a new post on WordPress, your action might be to automatically tweet the post. Getting a new Twitter follower could trigger an automatic message to that person, welcoming him or her. An alert about stock hitting a specific level could generate an email to your Gmail account, an SMS to your smartphone, or a phone call.