Somewhere, at some point, somebody decided that, by golly, the Internet just isn’t useful enough.

Sure, you can Tweet right from your hand-held device and, yeah, you can set up alerts so you don’t have to remember things on your own. It’s nifty. But what about true automation? What about really making the Web work for you so you can relax and watch more television?

Enter IFTTT, which stands for “If This, Then That,” which really says it all. Launched in 2010, it’s a service that allows ordinary geeks like you to use the Internet in exciting and helpful ways. Instead of giving you the Wikipedia breakdown of the program, let me show you what IFTTT is doing for me.

Through IFTTT (, ESPN sends me a text message to remind me that the Kansas City Royals are about to play. If I wanted to, I could have it send me score updates after each inning. When it comes to the Royals, I usually don’t want to know the score.

Using the weather app, IFTTT will send me a text message when the temperature rises above 70 degrees. I expect to get my first text around the middle of August.

If somebody lists a used futon for sale in the Sun Journal’s classified ads, IFTTT will send me an email to let me know. Never mind that I don’t really need a futon. If I did, I’d have quite the edge, now wouldn’t I?

Every Facebook status update I post is sent to Evernote automatically by IFTTT, where it is arranged in a diary.

If I star an item in my feed reader, that will also get sent to Evernote.

IFTTT sends me reminders to take out the trash, register my truck and wake up in the morning. If I need it to, it will call my phone and speak a bogus message to get me out of boring meetings. IFTTT sometimes posts updates to Facebook because I’m just too tired to do it myself.

I’m an IFTTT noob, there’s no doubt about it.

The “recipes” (the triggers and subsequent actions are called recipes, you know) I have set up are the most basic. There are people who buy special software to really make things happen.

* Temperature falls below 60? Have your heat turned on at home.

* Stock market doing something funky? Flash a special light plugged into your USB port so you don’t miss the catastrophe and/or windfall.

* Out of town? Use IFTTT and a special gadget called Wemo to turn your lights off and on at home according to a schedule you set yourself.

* Using the same gadget, have IFTTT text or call you whenever someone enters your kitchen. Or takes a cookie from the cookie jar. Or whenever your cat uses the litter box.

And so on. Not that you need the fancy gadgets. Mike Begin of Auburn has a fairly impressive list of IFTTT recipes without any of the geeky hardware.

Whenever he “likes” a photo on Instagram, IFTTT sends that photo to his Dropbox account. Everything he backs up to Dropbox, meanwhile, also gets saved to Google Drive. Anything he marks as “watch later” on YouTube gets forwarded to Evernote. Whenever he . . .

But you get the idea. There are so many possible recipes, simple and extravagant, we don’t have the column space to even scratch the surface.

Millions are using IFTTT. Some say it’s the future of the Internet. And yet locally? Tepid response, at best.

“Considered it for the business side of things,” says magazine publisher Joshua Shea, “but after doing a test on a similar platform on my phone I decided against it.”

“I’ve looked at it,” says Auburn cop and uber geek Jason Moore, “but never found an actual use.”

Some of the reluctance is no doubt due to the fact that it’s already possible to automate your life in various other ways. There are apps like Tasker for Android phones and simple things like Google news alerts.

And like Paula Deen found out, the recipe is critical. Bad recipes will catch up with you.

Chuck Lafean knows.

“I started with one that would tell me that it was raining,” the Auburn man says, “until I realized that was something of no value; I was either already wet or prepared/not prepared to be wet. I think this was one of only maybe four recipes available when I signed up.

“I had a Facebook notifier for a specific person,” Lafean continues. “But that was useless because I talk to that person regularly and I really don’t like social media, anyway.”

Still. The potential of automation is great. If you have a “if this happens, then do that” Internet desire, there’s a fairly good chance you can make it happen through IFTTT. Lafean’s not soured on IFTTT yet.

“I am planning on writing a recipe that will text me when there is a travel advisory on the turnpike,” Lafean says, “which is important as a commuter. I get their emails as a text, but that is completely useless because it is so truncated that I can’t even see where the problem is.”

The people who create recipes on IFTTT usually share them with the rest of the world. Because of its growing popularity, there are now thousands of recipes you can browse, and you’re free to swipe whatever you want and even alter it to your specific needs.

Perhaps the best thing about IFTTT is that it can be used to control your Internet overload. Let’s face it, you can hardly get through a day without being Tweeted or poked or texted.

“Lately I’ve been thinking about how cell phones and the Internet have such a negative effect on our day-to-day lives,” says Renee St. Jean of Topsham. “It’s amazing how the advance in technology makes our apparently difficult lives more difficult. I honestly wish we could go back to landlines and no Internet.”

Which is absolute apostasy to some of us. But of course, it’s a delicate balance, this whole Internet vs. Real World thing. We want technology to make our lives easier, but we don’t want to feel like we’re being nagged. Or told what to do. Or spied upon.

“My thing is, I really want my life to be analog, not digital,” Lafean says. “I have specific things I use my phone for, and most of them support an outdoors life — digital Audubon Guides, GPS recording and topo maps, and RSS news delivery. But I only want those things when I want them; I don’t want them to intrude.”

IFTTT can do that.

Set it up so you only get important emails, or weather reports only when there’s a tornado or earthquake.

And when even that is too much? IFTTT recipes can be easily turned on and off.

If only the Royals were as reliable.

IFTTT terminology


Channels are the basic building blocks of IFTTT (If This Then That). You’ve seen them before. Some examples are: Facebook, Evernote, Email, Weather, LinkedIn. There are currently 60 channels.


The “this” part of an IFTTT recipe is called a trigger. Some example, a trigger could be “If I’m tagged in a photo on Facebook” or “If I check in on Foursquare” or “If my mother-in-law sends me an email.”


The “that” part of an IFTTT recipe is called an action. Some example, an action could be “then send me a text message” or “then create a status message on Facebook” or “then send the message to trash.”


Pieces of data from a trigger are called ingredients. For example, the ingredients of an email trigger could be: subject, body, attachment, received date and the sender’s address.


Personal recipes are a combination of a trigger and an action from your active channels.


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