internet-networking in Internet & Networking Channel,
Written by: Miguel Esquirol on Nov 4 2011, 1:30pm

IFTTT: Internet's MacGyver

One of the reasons I always admired MacGyver is the way he uses everyday objects for some unintended purpose (that and his hair). That ingenuity and creativity created not just an amazing show, but something akin to life teachings. Those MacGyverisms are explored in Jane Fulton Suri’s book: Thoughtless Acts? These “thoughtless acts” reveal how people behave in a world not perfectly tailored to their needs, and how they use everyday objects in a different form than it was intended.

Internet Thoughtless Acts


We like our tools and we enjoy discovering new ways to use them. These “MacGyverisms” also happen online. Twitter is one of the biggest examples of a tool that arrived much earlier than people knew how to use it, and the different uses we've born witness to show us how a simple service can be used in many different ways.


One of the most important elements for MacGyver was duct-tape, not only because of its intrinsic characteristics, but because it helped to put two things together that weren't intended to “be” together.

IFTTT is a sort of duct-tape for the Internet. Few projects have surprised me like this one, and it has the potential to become an essential tool for advanced uses with Evernote, Dropbox or Delicious, and even more so.

If this, then that


This is a really simple concept, but with a lot of possibilities. IFTTT means: If this, then that. (A basic logic chain that includes specific triggers and actions, and almost infinite variations.)

THIS: This is the trigger... some action that occurs that triggers a response. For example:

  • If I'm tagged in a photo on Facebook
  • If I tweet on Twitter
  • If I save a new delicious bookmark
  • If I receive an SMS
  • If I start an article on Google Reader


THAT: That is the action that will happen when a trigger is activated.

  • Then send a text message
  • Then tweet on Twitter
  • Then create a status message

As you can see, this service is not a service in itself, but a way to connect different tools between each other following a trigger-action model that you created. Currently they have over 36 channels that can be used both as trigger or action, but they will add more. And over 330 Recipes or combinations are possible. Here some examples:

  • Every time you are tagged in a photo on Facebook, it will be sent to Dropbox.
  • Save my favourite tweets to Evernote
  • Start a Gmail, send it to Evernote
  • Starred Google Reader to Note
  • Google+ post to Facebook wall with link to G+
  • Instagram liked post to tmblr
  • Tweet link to Tumblr
  • Add items liked on Google Reader to Instapaper
  • Delicious bookmarks tagged readitlater are forwarded to readitlater


IFTTT is a powerful new way to share what you find online, to organize your ideas, your discoveries, your friends, but that is just the first level of what you could do with this service. I won't try to imagine the different ways people will use this service, but if you know duct-tape (or MacGyver) you may imagine that there's a universe of possibilities ahead.