App review: IFTTT

A review of IFTTT which stands for If This, Then That – which perfectly summarises what service does.

It's no hyperbole to say IFTTT has saved the world on multiple occasions from assured destruction ... well perhaps it's a slight hyperbole, but this deceptively simple productivity service has become integral to my digital universe – and without it much of it will fall into a black pit of forgetfulness.

IFTTT stands for If This, Then That – which perfectly summarises what service does. Users create 'recipes' to automate online tasks to free up time. Each recipe requires two cloud services to be hooked up, one as the trigger and the other as the action. For instance, I have a recipe which backs up new contacts on my iPhone to a spreadsheet on Google Docs.

In a world of disparate cloud software and social networks, all owned by competing companies not necessarily looking to integrate with their online nemeses – IFTTT is a refreshing intermediary. It supports a wide range of cloud services, including Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, Flickr, Gmail, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr and YouTube. 

The recently released iOS app also extends support to your phone's contacts, photo gallery, and reminders app.

The whole thing is free. A quick Google search shows that I'm not the only one who's wondered how the IFTTT team makes money. The app is also free and I haven't seen any advertising in my six months of using it. The old adage goes if it's free, you're the product – so use IFTTT with a grain of salt if you're nervous about having your online activities logged.

Of course, it's probably not a great idea to become dependent on a service that requires the permission of so many different companies and APIs to work. We've seen Twitter hack away at the access to its API in order to secure future revenue streams, there's nothing to stop one of the channels IFTTT uses from being cut off. 

Here are some of my favourite recipes:

- If tagged in a Facebook photo, email me that photo

- Backup Instagram photos to Dropbox

- Copy articles with my byline to a Dropbox folder (using RSS)

- Email me when premium iOS apps are made free

- Send a new NASA photo to my email every day