So Yahoo! Pipes will be ‘retired’ in a couple of months. It was a seminal tool for its time, helping people like me demonstrate and explore the potential of RSS, APIs and automation without having to become programmers first.
But times move on. I’d stopped using Pipes years ago: I’d caught the programming bug and wanted to do more; and while Pipes fell into disrepair dozens of other tools were springing up showing how similar things could be done.
And top of the crop has been IFTTT.
IFTTT (If This Then That) was Pipes without the pipes. And although it lacked some of the functionality and control of Pipes (searching multiple sites all at once was a particular favourite), it more than made up for that with simplicity of interface and an ever-growing list of services it supported.
The proposition was a clear one: if you’re having to anything more than once, get IFTTT to do it for you. Cross-posting from WordPress to Facebook? Automate it. Saving all the tweets using a particular hashtag? Automate it.
When I first started using IFTTT there were around a dozen ‘channels’ you could connect: mainly social media and blogging services like Twitter, Facebook and WordPress – and of course, any RSS feed.
Now there are dozens and dozens of channels: not just newer social media platforms including Instagram and Pinterest, but email and phonecall triggers, iOS reminders and notifications, wearable tech like Nike+, Android Wear and Fitbit, connected home devices like WeMo light switches and Honeywell thermostats, connected car devices like Dash and Mojio, and triggers from your mobile phone including its location and text messages.
As the world has become more connected, so IFTTT has grown in potential. It is also one of the clearest demonstrations of how ‘visible’ we are when we connect to the web: sharing everything from the temperature of our house and the speed of our car to the position of our phone, and our partner’s phone.
Like Pipes you can set all sorts of filters, and you can browse, search and adapt ‘recipes’ by other users, including ‘notify me of a zombie apocalypse‘.
Of course, it’s a gateway drug to programming. By demonstrating one of the most basic concepts in programming – the ‘if’ – and how much time you can save with just that, it makes you want to do more. And it opens you up to the world of possibilities that comes with working with developers.
You may never have used Pipes, but it’s probably a good time to play with IFTTT.
Tony Hirst has written about the announcement and how that reflects changes in the culture of web companies. Adam Tinworth has pointed out that many organisations relying on pipes created by departed staff may find that things stop working.Ghacks Technology News outlines alternatives ClickScript, Quadrigram, and Superpipes.