Monday, December 17th, 2012

Recipe for a More Personal Internet

I might not be Jamie Oliver, but even I can follow a recipe to produce some semi-decent food. A list of ingredients, followed by a list of actions and you get your end result. Simple. But what about the other obsession in my life—the Internet?

Many of us think we are getting the most out of the Web. The reality is we are slaves to a load of applications: tweeting, retweeting, accepting friends, deleting friends, uploading music, downloading music, surfing the flood of digital noise … the list goes on and, frankly, it’s a drag.

But worry not: San Francisco start-up IFTTT.com (if this, then that) is here to help, by encouraging you to “put the internet to work for you” through the use of simple “recipes.”

IFTTT’s digital framework allows anyone, no matter the skill level, to get the best out of the Internet. Following in the style of trailblazers such as Paper.li and MentorMob, which let you create your own newspapers and playlists from news stories, pictures and videos, IFTTT.com is the new kid on the block, in a growing list of sites that lets people curate their own Web space.

But IFTTT is different. It enables users to build automated tasks by combining popular online services. Linking these channels through certain triggers creates a “recipe,” which delivers the user’s desired end result—and it’s as simple as beans on toast.

By giving you the freedom to set up your own personal recipes and share them with the world, IFTTT is unleashing your own creativity to push the boundaries of what is possible. With the technology taking a back seat, the user’s imagination becomes the main driver.

So, how does it work? Most Internet channels and RSS feeds can read each other’s data. Thus, by combining different Internet channels, IFTTT users can leverage the power of both to achieve a perfect end result. Wikipedia puts it simply: “If X does Y behaviour, go execute Z.”

Want to keep track of where you have been? You can set up a recipe, where a Foursquare check-in can be logged into your calendar so you have an archive of your manoeuvres. On a more James Bond 007/Q level, you might create a recipe where a weather application can trigger an automated fan when the temperature reaches a specific number.

With Pinterest creating eye candy as people tell their social story by filtering their inspirations, and Flipboard, the news content app with over 20 million users flipping 3 billion pages per month, the future’s looking bright for IFTTT.

All these services represent a new wave of personal control over your Web user experience. It is now easier than ever to get what you want, when you want from the Web, as long as you have the right tools at your disposal.

By letting me control the information delivered to my computer, my love affair with the vast array of apps on the net has been reignited with a passion. My YouTube likes are now automatically posted to my tumblr page for my followers to scrutinise. My friends’ Soundcloud uploads are sent to my Dropbox folder for my listening pleasure.

With IFTTT, Pinterest, Flipboard and numerous other Web-personalisation platforms growing in popularity, one can only guess at what the scalable benefits of these services will be to marketing and workplace productivity.

It’s an ingenious yet brutally simple way of collecting data and actually doing something useful with it. Imagine forwarding invitations to people who mention certain keywords on social platforms—or automatically generating infographics by monitoring RSS feeds. You are limited only by your imagination and creativity.

Next year could well be the year that the user takes back control of the Internet, and from IFTTT’s perspective, it is most definitely a recipe for success.

Alec Woolfson is a planning intern at gyro London.

Originally published at Ignite Something on the Forbes CMO Network

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