“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?