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IFTTT Triggers Loyal, Nerdy Following

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Editor’s note: TechCrunch contributor Semil Shah is an entrepreneur interested in digital media, consumer Internet, and social networks. Shah currently works at Votizen and is based in Palo Alto; you can follow him on twitter @semil

One of my favorite services to pop in the second half of 2011 is “If This, Then That,” or if you’re really dorky, IFTTT. Among a small group of faithful nerds on Twitter, IFTTT is a simple yet powerful service that generates warm, fuzzy feelings among those who are hooked. Based in San Francisco, the company has received funding from Betaworks and is closing out 2011 with momentum.

If you haven’t tried it yet, please give it a whirl: www.ifttt.com

Briefly, IFTTT is a service that allows users to set a number of alerts, or “tasks,” that will “trigger” a preset function based on what you set. For example, you can set IFTTT to send you an email every time a specific user on Twitter sends a tweet or have a copy of every Instagram photo you snap to be automatically sent to your Dropbox, which I wish I would’ve set before the last iOS5 update wiped clean two months of my pictures. The different permutations of “triggers” you can set are sort of endless. To help you wade through them, you can browse different IFTTT “recipes” and browse this thread on Quora.

For some inexplicable reason, IFTTT seems to have endeared itself to nerds who love to cook up and share their own little recipes for triggers. The service’s name is also not all that elegant, which seems to bolster its street cred. IFTTT sounds like some secret web protocol that only a select few understand.

Stepping back, it’s becoming easier to see why IFTTT is gaining steam. First, there are just too many services to keep track of. If you’re monitoring a series of brands across many channels, IFTTT enables you to track and route all relevant messages to a specific place, especially Dropbox. There’s no easy way for a nontechnical mind like me to connect all these random APIs between disparate services, so IFTTT makes it both easy and, strangely, fun and addictive with its big bold letters and slick interaction. You can also temporarily turn off tasks without losing the recipes entirely.

If you want to get even more serious under the hood, you can actually view a historic “activity” feed of every trigger action you’ve set. I like to call this the “nerdfeed.”

Where to go from here?

That’s a tricky question. On the one hand, we’ve been told the future of business development on the web and in mobile is establishing connections among various APIs, where new products and services can be built on top of existing data. On the other hand, while I set many Google Alerts, I’m not sure I’d pay that much for them. Maybe companies and brands would be more willing to pay for this ability to monitor and archive, or maybe they could charge a traffic toll between these APIs?

Before that, they’d have to get beyond the nerdcore for wider adoption and usage. If they could suggest some basic triggers for more casual users, perhaps ones that monitor their names or companies (much like someone may set a Google search for their name), that could start to spread as folks want to keep tabs on their mentions and reputation. Or, they could tailor the initial triggers to be tied to Facebook actions, considering their massive user base and lack of tools for monitoring.

Finally, and it’s kind of strange to write this, but I just really like the site and service. Perhaps it has something  to do with giving users a bit more control over the social web. For being such a stale dashboard of tasks, I don’t understand why I’m using it so much. And, I’m not the only one. Every now and then on Twitter, I’ll talk about IFTTT and get up to 10 @replies of someone who says they are “addicted” to it. IFTTT could slowly become a type of “connective tissue” between various services, creating channels between walled gardens and linking data in fascinating and fun ways within a web that’s currently too fragmented to manage on our own.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons / Fotologic