This is Part 2 of a two-part Q&A with Linden Tibbets, CEO and co-founder of IFTTT. For Part 1, click here.
This post also appears on Wearable.ai, which interviews the innovators in wearable computing, IoT and AR. For inquiries, please email publisher Mark Brooks.
IFTTT is an automation service that hopes to bridge the gap between connected devices to create a more seamless experience. IFTTT (which stands for “if this, then that” and rhymes with “gift”) allows users of connected devices and digital services to easily integrate them across platforms to better suit their needs.
IFTTT CEO, Linden Tibbets, explains how the newest developments to the platform hope to enhance their experience for both developers and the average Joe.
Mark Brooks: In February 2015, IFTTT split into two apps: IF, which focuses on automation, and DO, an app that allows users to easily trigger an action with the press of a button. How’s this division helped simplify things? LT: We see this as the first step of many towards a more rich experience around recipes. The idea of recipes has always been that it could be much, much more than “if this, then that.” It could be much richer and at the same time, for the user, it could be much easier to think about. They just need to think about if they want to do this thing or not; whether that uses 2 channel or 200 channels should really be up to the developer to decide what that recipe can do.
That split between DO and IF allowed us to experiment with another type of recipe, a recipe that involves just a press of a button, and we have been really blown away by what people have been able to do with the DO button and DO apps.
It has really enforced that these apps themselves aren’t necessarily where all the interaction is. In fact, almost 40% of the button presses that happen within the DO apps happen on the Android Widget and the iOS Today Stream Widget. That was a little bit surprising, but also really in line with the way we thought about the world, and that not everything was going to need to have an app. The way of thinking that you need an app for every single connected device and every single service is really going to be extinct here really soon, and we’re going to start looking at new modes of interaction and new ways of making things happen in our world outside of just traditional apps.
MB: Are you finding DO is attracting more users that may feel intimidated by programming? Could this be a gateway app to IF?
LT: Yes, DO certainly has been more attractive to folks who may be a bit intimidated by programming. In fact, we are not setting out to build a programming language for consumers. We think that the idea of a recipe, at the same time it gets richer and more complex, can also get simpler for our general audience.
So we think people with a developer mindset that aren’t intimidated by programming are going to continue to build increasingly richer experiences that recipes can represent, and most folk can just decide, Do I want to do this thing? Yes or No.
The Future is Bright
MB: You currently have hundreds of existing channels and recipes, with users publishing more every day, with so many new connected devices being introduced all the time, and no end in sight, how do you expect IFTTT to evolve to accommodate everyone? LT: This a problem that we are uniquely set up to really tackle. We want to keep things really simple and continue to streamline what using IFTTT and using recipes really means. We want to make it incredibly personal. As we have more and more channels and integrations on IFTTT, there is a better and better chance that those channels can represent the type of devices and services you uniquely use, that are different from someone else.
Our platform is well on its way to allowing developers to really understand what people are doing with their service and create recipes that meet some of those needs that people are trying to express today with simple versions of recipes. We are allowing developers to really go above and beyond IFTTT and DO to address those needs.
MB: There has to be a lot of coding and work that goes into keeping the various APIs working so these recipes will continue to work. This is obviously not cheap, but I don’t see advertising on your site or even in the free software that you provide. How does IF currently monetize or plan to monetize in the future? LT: It’s actually not a lot of work because of the platform that we’ve built. We have a developer platform that is still in private Beta, and developers are effectively building and maintaining those integrations for us. So we have really taken a corner on an exciting development, that developers have seen enough value out of being part of the IFTTT ecosystem that now they are doing that work and electing to really build and maintain and improve their integration on IFTTT over time.
That points directly to how we want to monetize. That developer platform is still in its infancy. We plan on heavily investing and making that platform the platform of the future. Not just the way that developers plug into and represent their brand on IFTTT, but really a way for developers to build seamless experiences across services, platforms, and devices.
MB: What is your vision for the future and IOT and IFTTT’s role in it? Where would you like to see IFTTT in 5 years time? In 10 years time?
LT: It’s no longer profound to say that every single thing in the room you are in right now is going to be connected to the Internet in some way. How that’s going to work and what that’s going to look like is still anyone’s guess, but it will happen. The Internet is going to jump out of our browser and into the real world sooner than we think.
What that represents is that each one of these connected devices and the services built around them is going to be built by a different company or some subset of different companies. The old way of thinking about software was to think about these vertical silos, and we’ve essentially surrounded ourselves with vertical silos. Some of those silos grew to encompass many vertical silos (like Google, Apple, and Microsoft), and what IFTTT is all about and the part we’d like to play is to allow developers to cut across those silos horizontally and integrate with both the data and the capabilities that each one of those vertical silos represents.
So when we talk about this idea of seamless computing and seamless experiences in the platform that IFTTT is working on, this is going to enable developers to build those seamless experiences and that’s what we think the future is all about. A way for everyone to experience a future in which the Internet is both pervasive and friendly and works the way that people want it to.
Our team is incredibly excited about bringing the future about, and I think we are working on some really big and bold new ideas for that platform, for recipes, and for how it all fits together so that in 2016 we are going to deliver in a big way.
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