When I think of IFTTT — which we named as one of our 50 favorite sites in 2012 — the metaphor that comes to mind is those iconic old Reese’s ads involving someone getting chocolate in another person’s peanut butter, and vice versa.
The service, whose name is short for “If This Then That,” lets you smoosh together dozens of other apps and services, from Evernote to ESPN to Facebook to Flickr to SoundCloud to SkyDrive to e-mail and SMS, by setting an action in one app or service as a trigger to spawn an action in another. Once you create a recipe, IFTTT runs it continuously without requiring further intervention on your part: It lets you automate tasks you didn’t even know could be automated.
The possibilities, which IFTTT calls recipes, are more or less endless. You can get an e-mail notification when a favorite Etsy seller posts new items. You can automatically upload your new Instagram snapshots to Flickr. Or add your Foursquare check-ins to Google Calendar. Or tweet when you walk 10,000 steps while wearing your Jawbone Up. (Up is one of several pieces of hardware IFTTT can talk to; another is Philips’ Hue web-connected light bulbs.)
It’s not a unique idea — Yahoo’s underappreciated Pipes did something roughly similar first — but IFTTT supports an array of options and lets you do it all with a few clicks.
And now you can do it on an iPhone. The new IFTTT iOS app does exactly the same thing as the existing web-based version, but with an interface that’s been nicely rethought for the small screen. You can create recipes from scratch or find them by browsing or searching a long, long list of ones created and shared by other users. There’s a good chance that someone’s already built the recipe you want, and if nobody has, all those existing ones are still good inspiration.
On the iPhone app, the main screen includes an activity feed that shows activity triggered by your recipes; you can also choose to get a notification each time a specific recipe gets triggered, which is a helpful way to verify that it’s working as you intended. It’s all very slick, and I can’t find much to criticize except for one very picky point: I couldn’t find the shared recipes at first, because the icon IFTTT uses to represent them — a pair of eyeglasses — was a bit cryptic. (On the web, you get to them by clicking a Browse button.)
IFTTT just keeps getting more powerful as its creators add new apps, services and actions, and it feels right at home on the iPhone. (Recipes you create on the phone are available on the web and vice versa.) If you can’t figure out a way — or several ways — to use it to get useful stuff done, you just aren’t trying.