A relatively new web service, IFTTT (If This Then That) lets you automate tasks between other popular services such as Dropbox, Twitter, Evernote, Facebook, Instapaper, and many others. IFTTT works by telling it what task you want carried out, what will trigger this task, and it will put it into action for you.
Channels, triggers, actions, ingredients, recipes... these are some of the terms used by IFTTT, and although it may seem complicated at first glance, it’s actually extremely easy to use.
Here’s a practical example in case the whole concept doesn't ring a bell yet...
Say I want to keep up with how a certain country is doing in the London 2012 Olympics. First, I enable the ESPN channel and immediately I’ll be asked to set a trigger from a number of predetermined options. In this case I’ll choose “new Olympic medal by country”. Next, I’ll specify which country to follow and create the trigger. That’s the ‘If This’ part.
You’ll need to choose a channel for the second portion of your recipe.
Since I want to be notified by SMS I’ll choose that channel -- though you can do a number of other things like automatically posting it on social networks or your personal calendar. After activating the SMS channel I’ll choose the ‘Send me an SMS’ action and configure the message to my liking. That’s the ‘Then That’ part.
The resulting recipe is shown with a self-explanatory graphic along with options to share it publicly.
The process is very easy to follow on IFTTT's site. There are currently fifty different channels, including social networks, essentials like email and RSS feeds, and even Belkin’s WeMo devices to bring IFTTT tasks to the physical world. IFTTT’s tagline is “Put the internet to work for you” and that’s exactly what it does.
Of course, you don't have to create all tasks from the ground up, as there are already countless of useful recipes being shared. I've hand-picked a few of my favorites and created a handful others to get you started.
Freebies and Deals
Receive daily PC game deals via email, IM (Google Talk), or SMS. The deals are sourced from steamgamesales.com’s RSS feed and include data from 9 different stores. Optionally, you can set an alert for whenever a specific game gets a discount and receive it via email, IM, SMS.
Get Amazon’s daily Gold Box deals by email, IM, or SMS. If you’re annoyed with too many alerts that are uninteresting to you try creating your own recipe using a specific keyword such as SSD or LCD, for example. Just use Feed as the trigger with the URL http://rssfeeds.s3.amazonaws.com/goldbox.
Get notified of Apple’s official free app of the week via email, IM, or SMS. If you are an Android user, there’s also a recipe for Amazon’s Appstore free app of the day notifications by email, IM or SMS.
Backing up and Social Networks
Automatically send starred tweets containing links to Instapaper to catch up reading later (note: many Twitter clients already include a ‘send to Instapaper’ option but it may come in handy if you use the official client or web interface.) A similar recipe is available for starred items in Google Reader.
Automatically send every Facebook photo you’re tagged in to your Dropbox folder. This recipe serves both as a backup and a way to ensure that any photos attached to your name will be accessible to you at all times, even after it’s been deleted from Facebook. You’ll need to sync your Facebook and Dropbox accounts.
Save all Instagram photos to Dropbox. Similar to the IFTTT recipe above, this one will help Instagram users keep a local backup of all their faux vintage photos by synchronizing them with Dropbox.
Archive your Foursquare check-ins to Google Calendar. Although I’m not a huge fan of check-in based social networks, this one can come in handy while traveling if you want to keep a log of the places you’ve been to -- landmarks, restaurants, and so on -- all with their respective dates on your calendar.
Synchronize your Twitter profile picture with Facebook’s. This one is self explanatory and it basically will save you the extra steps to update your Twitter profile picture by using Facebook’s whenever it changes.
Text to escape. Need an excuse to run away from a boring or awkward situation? This recipe lets you trigger a customized phone call to your cell by sending a text message to IFTTT. You can customize the phone call message or create multiple messages triggered for different situations. Only US numbers are supported.
Wake-up call. This recipe lets you schedule a call to your phone at a specific time and day of the week.
Text weather. There are a number of weather-related recipes on IFTTT, you can choose to get the weather every morning by SMS, for example, or just a warning to let you know it will rain or snow.
Other popular services that are available as channels that we didn't mention here include Blogger, Gmail, Flickr, LastFM, YouTube, Wordpress, among others.
Considering you also get to play with RSS feeds, you can potentially create automated tasks for any given website. As before, if you want to create your own recipe you can later share that with other users on the site or borrow existing ones.