Simplifying the Web with If This Then That

The World Wide Web, created in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN, was originally intended to connect various repositories of information and make them accessible, consumable and editable by large numbers of people.

Some twenty years later we are in a place where the World Wide Web has, for most of us, become extremely tangled.

Interacting in a Silo

Most of us have a presence on the Web that is spread across various sites and networks, and our interaction on each of those sites is generally independent of the others.

For example, you may use Facebook for family and friends, LinkedIn for business, Twitter for networking, etc. As more websites appear that appeal to us, this web of information about us that we want to interact with becomes increasingly complicated.

Of course there are ways to connect various websites. But you unless you have some programming knowledge, you are limited to what’s available, or stuck hoping that someone develops a tool or app that will do what you need it to.

Enter IFTTT

There is, however, some hope that things are changing. New platforms like If This Then That (IFTTT) are starting a movement toward simplifying how we interact with various platforms, including social networks, RSS feeds, productivity apps, email and text messaging.

With no programming knowledge, a user of IFTTT can trigger actions, messages and events based on other triggers. For example, if I receive an email from THIS person, THEN send me THAT text message. (This is a great feature for people who do not have a smartphone or don’t want to incur the data charges that come with reading emails on their phones.)

IFTTT also handles date and time information. After telling it which time zone you are in, it can use the time and date to trigger actions. For example, say you want to send an email to someone on a specific date and time, but are not sure if you will be at a computer at that time. No problem. Just set up a task in IFTTT to do it for you. If THIS is the date, THEN send THAT email to this person.

Scratching the Surface with IFTTT

The uses for this tool are amazing, and there’s a lot already there that will keep the average user going for quite some time. In fact, the site is so easy to use because there are external sites and apps already set up to work with IFTTT (Channels) and hundreds of pre-written tasks (Recipes) created by other users.

Here are some of the Channels that already work with IFTTT:

Some popular Recipes include automating tweets in response to certain activities; automatically archiving Facebook images to Dropbox; sending information from different sources into your Evernote account; various ways to manage and prioritize Gmail; and over 700 more pre-written tasks.

IFTTT and other similar platforms are going to help us manage the Web more efficiently, and streamline many of the manual tasks we do on a daily basis. The best part? It’s a connected tool for all users, not just the geeks.

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Simon Salt
Simon is CEO of IncSlingers, and is an author, blogger, writer and entrepreneur. His book on Social Location Marketing was published by QUE, a division of Pearson publications in February 2011. Simon has been published online by Mashable, Read Write Web and others.

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