“Folk programming” and ifttt.com

One of the visions of the Internet that has been around for quite some time is the vision of a net with interoperable services, that all connect and can exchange information. The names of the vision have changed, but the basic idea – a programming language that essentially draws on all the existing web services and products – has remained the same.

Arguably you can already do this with a number of programming languages, of course. But the complexity of the languages has been such that even though they may be fairly easy to learn very few have. Python might be changing that a little, but still: the number of people who can combine web services easily and craft their own code is still marginal.

Maybe that is the way it will always be. Maybe there is a natural distribution of programmers and users that will always be 10/90 or something like that. But maybe the next stage of the web will be turning it into a programming or scripting language that is accessible, easy to use and modular.

Some have argued that this is what ifttt.com does. This service draws on the openness of different services and creates a meta-language that is visual, very easy to construct scripts (or recipes) in and where the basic mode is sharing the recipes online. I have been playing around with it for a while, and I can see it becoming something very exciting.

Even with the limited things you can do now it is really helpful, and allows you to set up a series of recipes that save time, effort and in some cases creates something interesting. With ifttt.com you can “program the web” to send facebook updates to evernote and to twitter, and blog them as well in a single fell swoop. You can SMS yourself if it is going to rain, you can post blog posts when it rains and as the set of connected services grows the possibilities expand into the bizzare, funny and extremely useful.

Play around with it. What do you think? Is this the beginning of “folk programming” of a lego-like net?

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8 Comments

  1. No, it’s 4GL all over again. This will change the world just as much as Yahoo Pipes did. /grumpy python programmer

    March 15, 2012
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  2. said:

    I think we need one more level of standardization, not only of the APIs but also of the information that different organizations provide.

    March 15, 2012
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  3. nicklas said:

    @staffan yes, well, some time some one will get it right. Newton.
    @simon i think that is difficult, the question is what data sets we need to stadardize – everything?

    March 15, 2012
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  4. […] ‘Folk programming’ and ifttt.com Nicklas Noterar makes the argument that ifttt.com represents the next stage in programming: modular pieces that can be recombined in new ways. I’m not so sure that’s correct — ifttt.com seems like it could just as easily be a way to introduce people to the concepts of programming and get them interested in learning more — but Noterar’s concept is interesting. […]

    March 16, 2012
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  5. Moby said:

    Det ekosystem som växt upp runt Twitter och deras API är väl ett fungerande exempel, tycker det fungerar riktigt bra faktiskt utan att man behöver kunna programmera något själv (majoritet av användarna). Twitter är överlägster det mesta om man behöver konsumera realtid varje dag. Recorded Future är för dyrt om man vill ha framtiden serverad.

    March 16, 2012
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  6. If you combine this blog post with http://noisesociety.com/nicklaslundblad.se/?p=624 (teach programming in schools) then that could make folk programming finally happen.

    We used to physically visit banks, travel agents and meeting places. Programmers changed the rules for them. How might folk programming change the rules for programmers?

    March 16, 2012
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  7. As a non-programmer but someone who likes using the internet to make life easier, yes, this is the way forward. The site looks like it is designed for NASA dolphins, with its big obvious buttons and everything made simple.
    It will be a big idea if it gets funding and the site actually starts working again (I havent been able to login and create/control recipes for a few weeks) because it is doing what facebook did for people – it Enables them. Facebook enabled people to have their own web page, upload photos and share their lives online. Ifttt.com enables people to connect services in extremely useful ways that your average non-programmer has no chance of doing. Its not realistic for everyone to learn to code and script – they are too busy with whatever their living is – but this enables them to combine web tools in a thousand ways. Folk programming, as you call it, is leveraging technology for the masses.

    April 26, 2012
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