IFTTT connects the digital world. Thousands of apps, products, and platforms are integrated in ways that wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for IFTTT. The foundation of this connectivity is a technology called an Applet. Applets are the glue in the web of links that constitute the IFTTT universe.
Applets – offering tech wizardry to the masses
The apps and devices in our lives all run on very different digital foundations. They are built by separate companies with differing goals and they operate in unique ways. In computer speak, they run on completely separate source code. This is why you spend so much of your life swiping between apps, copying and pasting information, and setting up a bewildering collection of different settings on all of the electronics you own.
Getting your pizza delivery app to trigger your smart bulb or your Spotify to track your playlist in a Google spreadsheet always seemed like cool ideas. Before IFTTT, such integrations were only available to the truly tech-savvy —connecting two digital touchpoints required you to register as a developer with both platforms, read all of the API documents, and code the integration in one of the supported programming languages.
But with IFTTT, everyone can access millions of improvements to their digital lives – in just a few clicks and without them having to write a single line of code. With Applets, anyone can get their smart coffee pot and their bank account to work together. Anyone can automatically add a YouTube video they like to a Spotify playlist. IFTTT have set the connectivity standard for how diverse and complex API protocols communicate with each other, transforming how millions of people worldwide engage with their digital worlds
What is an Applet, and what does it do?
Applets use customizable script to link two or more apps or devices that normally remain separate. By facilitating this digital link, an Applet performs a function which neither of the linked apps or devices can perform on their own.
For example, the music player on an Android phone doesn’t automatically link to a nearby Google Home device. But via an Applet, a simple voice command can make the Google Home device play music from the phone. A Google Home device isn’t typically much use in finding a lost phone. But via an Applet, a user can ask their Google Home to find their phone, and the device will turn the missing phone up to 100% volume and call it.
IFTTT hosts and manages millions of different Applets. Collectively, they run over one-billion times each month.
Applets benefit both users (individuals) and customers (businesses). Users create Applets themselves, free of charge, out of a desire to make their digital lives less fractured. Customers create Applets for their end-users, in order to improve their product and better integrate their offerings into consumers’ digital lives.
Applets interface with what in the IFTTT universe we call “services.” “Service” is a catch-all term that refers to any app, device or service that has the power to leverage Applets. Services span every area of life, from social media and finance apps to smart home devices and cloud storage. Usually, the various digital touchpoints in our life, whatever type of service they represent, remain disconnected. Because everything has a different API protocol, they can’t communicate or act hand-in-hand.
Via the IFTTT ecosystem, services can be seamlessly linked together. The IFTTT ecosystem powers over 630 services from some of the largest companies, including Amazon Alexa, Twitter, Dropbox, Philips Hue, Spotify, Mailchimp, Salesforce, Fitbit, Slack, GitHub, and much more.
And once two services are linked, Applets can get to work tapping into all the potential of this newfound connectivity.
For example, some other popular Applets allow people to:
The connective power of Applets is enjoyed by almost 20 million end-users. To date, nearly 60-million Applets have been enabled. Over 90-billion have been executed.
(n.b. The term “Applet” has a long history. Once upon a time, it was mostly associated with a specific type of Java programming. But nowadays, “Applet” refers almost exclusively to IFTTT’s large suite of bundles of integration code.)
How does an Applet work?
“IFTTT” is an acronym that stands for if this then that. Within computer science, features of programming in which whether an action occurs depends on whether a prior action occurs are called “conditional statements.” The bundle of computer code that comprises an Applet is a conditional statement: if (and only if) x happens, then as a result, y happens.
Applets are composed of triggers and actions. Triggers tell an Applet to start, and actions are the end result of an Applet run. The connective power of Applets is expressed in how triggers, and the actions they initiate, exist within distinct and separate apps or devices.
Using as examples some of IFTTT’s most popular Applets:
If you like a picture on Instagram, then this triggers the action of that photo being uploaded to your Dropbox account. If you log a to-do with your Amazon Alexa, then this triggers the action of the to-do being logged in your Google Calendar. If you record an upcoming event with Google Assistant, then this triggers the action of the event being saved in your iPhone Calendar. If Spotify updates your Discover Weekly playlist, then this triggers the action of the playlist being entered into a Google Sheet. If your Maps shows you arriving home, then this triggers the action of the Philips Hue smart bulb on your porch switching on.
n.b. When IFTTT first launched in 2010, Applets were called Recipes. Back then, Applets only ever had one trigger and one action. Today, Applets can have more than one action (“if this, then that, and that”) and/or conditional filters (“if this, and that, then that”).
How Applets improve our digital lives
The power of Applets lies in how they bring together things that are normally kept separate. Applets offer millions of ways to bring connectivity and compatibility to our digital lives, in a way that is invisible and automated. Normally, your bank account can’t talk to your weather app, enabling you to save a few bucks every time it rains. Your Evernote can’t talk to your Google Assistant, so that you can add to your to-do list simply by speaking. But with Applets, these newfound forms of connectivity are possible.
Typically, our digital experience is full of boundaries. Our phone screen offers a grid of apps that function in isolation. We manage our devices manually, one-at-a-time. We look at our weather app and see it’s getting cold later on, and then we have to go and program the heater ourselves. We love a song we hear on YouTube, and we have to go and track it down on Spotify by clicking and scrolling.
We waste hours triangulating between all of our various digital touchpoints. The typical person’s daily workflow is disjointed, and hampered by the boundaries and interruptions that live between apps and devices. In a professional context, for example, a study found that the average employee switches between 35 job-critical applications more than 1,100 times every single day.
Applets unleash the power of connectivity to make our entire digital experience smoother and more interconnected. Applets can cut out all that time we squander cross-posting, copying and pasting, uploading between apps, and so on.
And beyond just time-saving, Applets open up a universe of entirely new possibilities. They enable people to extract more value and enjoyment from the services they use the most. When you connect your Google Assistant to your Twitter account, a whole new behavior is made available to you. When you can save your receipts to Evernote, things might go much smoother at the end of the tax year.
How Applets enable businesses to help their users
People want connected experiences that are fluid and frictionless. We place a high value on our apps and devices functioning efficiently together. This efficiency saves us from wasting time, and makes the products and services we love more powerful and more useful.
When digital services are embedded into our lives, we use those services more frequently and with greater enthusiasm. Applets embed a service into other areas of a user’s digital world, producing exponentially more touchpoints. And more touchpoints produces reliably increased engagement. Because when we are empowered to make more (and more varied) use of a digital service, that service becomes far more valuable and useful to us.
Consider how much more useful Google Calendar becomes when it integrates with your banking app and keeps track of your spending. Consider how much more cooler your Sonos speaker becomes when you program tell it to play “Don't Stop Believin'” every Monday morning, or whenever it rains.
Many different kinds of businesses leverage Applets to improve the lives and the experiences of their customers. What unifies all of their efforts is a drive to loop their app or device into their customers’ wider digital ecosystems.
For example, three industry verticals that have experienced great success by harnessing the connective power of IFTTT applets are financial services, smart home products, and digital services.
Applets boost savings
Monzo, a challenger bank with a dynamic mobile app, providesApplet integrations to more than 30,000 users. More than 30 different Applets enable Monzo users to initiate a range of personalized and powerful experiences. Purchases can be logged in Google Sheets, or automatically send receipts to Expensify. Most popular of all is the “1p Savings Challenge,” in which users automatically deposit incrementally more savings as the year goes on.
Applets have been a huge boost to Monzo’s efforts to satisfy their customers. In August of 2019, Monzo passed the mark of five-million Applets run, with around £10,000,000 moved.
Applets make the home smarter
In smart home products, the leading smart lighting range, Philips Hue, uses IFTTT to connect their lights to over 430 other products, services, and apps. By integrating with Weather Underground, an Applet makes it so that a user’s lights automatically come on at sunset. An Applet that integrates with a user’s location services can make the lights come on as they arrive home.
Philips Hue customers highly value the connectivity that IFTTT Applets provide. With IFTTT, their home lighting becomes embedded within other features of their digital life, making what was once an inert light bulb interesting and dynamic.
By connecting their smart lights to everything else in their customers’ lives, Philips Hue sees an additional 8.7 million customer engagements per month.
Applets supercharge digital services
In digital services, Spotify leverages IFTTT to embed their playlists seamlessly into users’ lives. Through the power of Applets, Spotify users can automatically sync their Soundcloud likes to a Spotify Playlist, or automatically add the top posts in the r/ListenToThis subreddit to another playlist.
This added functionality has seen Spotify customers get even more from the music streaming service. Via IFTTT Applets, they add over 19-million songs to playlists every month. That’s an additional 76,000,000 minutes of songs!
The power of Applet insights
Applets are enabled by real users in response to real needs. Because of this, the IFTTT Applet universe offers unparalleled, real-time insight into what customers do and don’t want. By observing which Applets their users enjoy, companies can see exactly what is valued by the people they are serving.
When businesses perceive and understand their customers’ preferences, they are empowered to improve their apps and devices in a way that they know they want. Real user response helps them to craft their overall Applet strategy, and tailor their service to suit their users’ desires.
IFTTT users can provide Applet feedback, giving a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down to every Applet. Scaled across many users, this offers powerful, democratised information on how an Applet is performing. This allows a company to infer how their service is being used, and how they should approach modifications and updates.
IFTTT allow consumers to communicate their needs to companies – and allow companies to respond from a place of crystal clear insight — truly a win-win.
Applets and a world where everything works better together
Connectivity has spread into every corner of daily life. Forrester predicts that by 2022 the number of homes with smart devices will have more than doubled. The total installed base of Internet of Things (IoT) devices is projected to reach 75 billion worldwide by 2025 – a fivefold increase in ten years.
This growth both drives and reflects a world of ubiquitous connectivity. People expect their digital touchpoints to work together, and connectivity is fast becoming a consumer expectation and thus a business imperative.
But this connectivity is doing more than just linking up devices. It is spurring a world in which the very nature of the product is upended. As Eric Schaeffer and David Sovie put it in Reinventing the Product (2019): “The advent of the smart-connected product is about to change beyond recognition the ways in which products are used and how businesses conceive, make, distribute, and support products in the market.”
Tech trends, write Schaeffer and Sovie, are set to “change user expectations for products”; “consumers will demand smart products that are “containers for fluidly reconfigurable software and digital intelligence” and are “adaptable, reconfigurable, responsive.”
At IFTTT, we believe that Schaeffer and Sovie are correct. Products are becoming services that need to be networked and connected to a wider digital reality in order to succeed. Leveraging Applets is an essential part of adapting to this everything-as-a-service landscape, because Applets allow products and services that are typically disconnected to work together in ways that consumers value.
There is a direct correlation between society’s level of connectivity and the worth of the Applet. As the world becomes more and more connected, users are demanding an ever wider range of integrations, of the kind that only Applet-style technology can conjure. Meanwhile, Applets themselves are continuing to evolve, beyond the linear if this then that mould of the early years, toward broader forms of interconnectivity and more embedded forms of digital expression.
As products morph wholesale into services, the connectivity and embedded experiences facilitated by the Applet are quickly shifting from valuable to mission-critical. Connectivity platforms are becoming essential to manage and optimize the complex ways in which apps and devices can be woven into users’ lives. Services need to be seamlessly embedded, to the point where they mimic a native integration. Only connectivity platforms can facilitate this.
All of us will get used to a world where hundreds of Applets and connectivity platforms govern the threads that link together every corner of our digital lives. And businesses that want to thrive will need to fully understand the connectivity landscape and develop a future-proof connectivity strategy.