This week’s “In the Studio” installment welcomes a guest who has spent time as a video game development tester, a communications engineer at one of the world’s foremost design firms, and a builder who has noodled on scores of projects up until about a year ago, when he and his colleagues created a product that may just have the lift to break through.
You may have called it “IFTTT” or “If This Then That.” As I recently learned, it’s simply “ifttt” (pronounced “iffed” and in all lowercase letters).
Linden Tibbets, the founder of ifttt, opened the company’s beta back in December 2010 after coming up with the idea for the service. Since that launch, ifttt has picked up steam among users, engendering a surprising amount of excitement for what on the surface appears to be such a dead-simple and nerdy product. Tibbets, who genuinely seems blown away by the positive response, goes to lengths to explain that today’s version of the product is still far from complete — that this is just the beginning. Their overarching goal is to continue to push for more simplicity in their design and to make users experience the power in being able to control the connection between things or services. Tibbets will go so far as to say he wants ifttt to be as useful and straightforward as the Google search page is.
Back in December 2011, I wrote a short piece in TechCrunch about the service and was amazed by the response. Search for “ifttt” on twitter and you’ll see tons of tweets about people sharing new “recipes” and recommending the service to their followers. Since then, the company has raised a round of seed funding and has added engineers and designers to keep up with all the requests for new triggers, channels, and tasks.
In this short video, Tibbets offers fascinating insights into the product, going into detail about how his time at IDEO provided the knowledge base for the idea, as well as his own thinking around how humans innately create hacks in real life to make things easier, things that are so simple we may never notice them ourselves. Something as simple as using a cell phone as a paperweight during a windy day, for instance. The result of all of his project noodling and education is ifttt, and as he explains, seems to empower the user with the sense that they can control the web a little bit. Tibbets also explains the thinking behind the product’s playful vernacular, including my favorite “recipes,” though he warns that he wants the flexibility to change them as the product evolves. (My hope is that the language stays!)
For now, ifttt has made some difficult or mundane tasks a lot of fun, and now with the wind behind them, the next challenge is to create even more simple interfaces to get more people to use the service. In my own use of ifttt, I’ve found that it does in fact help me control the information around me, as well as automating a bunch of small tasks that save time and ensure that I don’t miss important things. When you hear Tibbets talk about it, you can see that this product is actually part of an evolution of thinking about human problems. Additionally, like many other builders who seem to stumble upon a hit, Tibbets has actually been building products and hacks for a really long time. ifttt isn’t just a random occurrence; it’s the cumulative effect of what Tibbets has been focusing on for years.