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Startup IFTTT banking on more automation in your life

Today, companies have apps and websites. Tomorrow, they'll let their customers link electronically in a new way with if-this-then-that actions, IFTTT CEO Linden Tibbets predicts.

IFTTT CEO Linden Tibbets speaks at Web Summit in Dublin, Ireland.
IFTTT CEO Linden Tibbets speaks at Web Summit in Dublin, Ireland. Stephen Shankland/CNET

DUBLIN -- If IFTTT Chief Executive Linden Tibbets gets his way, your house's lights will blink off and on when the FedEx delivery truck arrives with your package. Or your bank will transfer money from reserves when your balance gets too low. Or your electric car will pause charging when electricity rates spike.

The San Francisco startup offers if-this-then-that "recipes" that automate interactions with services available over the Internet. Today that's limited to tech-centric options such as Twitter, Google's Gmail, fitness trackers and Instagram photo-sharing.

Tibbets, though, predicts it'll spread far beyond that to mainstream companies, too. Today, companies have websites and mobile apps, but they'll add IFTTT channels to the mix, too, he said at the Web Summit tech conference here.

"We think at some point you're going to have an IFTTT channel. You're going to have to have a way for consumers to tap into your service," Tibbets said Wednesday.

IFTTT, which rhymes with "gift," currently has 140 service channels available, and it's adding about two new channels a week, Tibbets said. A channel is what IFTTT calls Web services and apps that have their own triggers and actions.

So far the company's customers have created 16 million "recipes" that automate actions like save tweets that refer to your company, flag you when items you want to buy arrive on eBay, send a text message with the morning weather report or log an entry on Evernote when you reach a fitness goal with a Jawbone Up tracker.

But will toothpaste makers and supermarkets join in? That's a harder sell.

IFTTT is geared for nontechnical users. No programming is needed to set up recipes or copy ones that are already shared on the site. But using the service still involves a certain amount of technical adeptness and interest.

IFTTT is a free service, but Tibbets said the company plans to launch a paid service for people who want more features.

"We're working toward premium accounts," Tibbets said, for customers going "above and beyond" the basic services. That could include support for multiple accounts, for example, so a company's Facebook post could automatically be tweeted over several Twitter accounts.