As I’ve blogged before, IFTTT.com (short for “If This Then That”) is a popular service which lets you trigger actions based on certain events that occur around the internet.

One of the most requested features, by programmers at least, is to add WebHooks support. Webhooks are a very simple way of pinging API information about the internet between web services. It uses JSON to send an arbitrary payload over HTTP via a POST request to a specified endpoint. This is about as simple as you can get, which is of course the beauty of it.

Support for Webhooks is an obvious extension to IFTTT, and would allow people to build on the service, connecting together more than just the hand picked menu of channels on the IFTTT dashboard. Quite why this is so slow coming is a mystery; some have speculated that it was a business decision on their part, others that it is hard to build a slick interface for something of such a highly technical nature, others that they simply haven’t gotten around to it just yet.

Free Software to the Rescue!

Until IFTTT implement a WebHooks channel, you can use the following workaround.

Abhay Rana, in a project over on GitHub, has built a some code which provides a WebHooks bridge for IFTTT and other services. I have extend to add some extra functionality you might find useful.

Currently, the IFTTT wordpress channel uses that software’s RPC endpoint to make posts, so the software works by providing a little bit of middleware, that you install on an internet facing machine, which pretends to be an installation of WordPress. You then point the wordpress IFTTT channel at this installation, passing it some special parameters.

You specify the final endpoint URL as a tag, and by default the contents of the post, title, and categories get JSON encoded and relayed to this endpoint.

My extensions

Different Webhook endpoints need different fields, however, so my extension lets you provide service specific plugins. These plugins can manipulate the data sent to the upstream endpoint further, providing different fields and encoding options. This lets you support multiple webhook endpoints from a single installation, and without having to set up multiple IFTTT accounts.

To use, create the appropriate plugin in your installation’s plugins directory containing your extension of the Plugin class, then pass a special category “plugin:NameOfClass“.

I have included an example class and a JSON payload class. The latter assumes that the post body is valid JSON, validates it, and then sends it to the upstream endpoint. This lets you send specially crafted messages to upstream webhook endpoints.

My extension also includes much more debug logging, as well as some extra validation code and graceful failures.

Why?

IFTTT is a fantastically useful service, but unfortunately you are limited to using the services they choose to (or have time to) write connectors for. I find this limiting, and at times frustrating, since as well as excluding some great existing services, it places limits on my ability to hack my own stuff together!

Previously, I’d often used twitter to glue things together. However, since Twitter are currently making concerted efforts to turn their service into just another ad serving platform, rather than the communication platform and messaging service it was growing into, it was necessary to come up with an alternative method.

WebHooks seem a better solution anyway.

Thanks again to Abhay Rana for the original code, and I hope people find my additions useful!

» Visit the project on Github…

9 thoughts on “Using Webhooks with IFTTT.com

  1. Thought I’d follow up on this by mentioning that Zapier (https://zapier.com) already has webhook support and has for quite some time.

    Disclaimer: I hack at Zapier. I actually came across this post while searching for something else webhook related and thought I’d comment. ;)

  2. Marcus: thanks so much for sharing your work on this project. Can I ask how to enable the testplugin (I’m a simpleton). Do I edit the xmlrbc.php? I’m getting a mental hangup when I read: “pass a special category “plugin:NameOfClass“” and can’t figure out where/how to do that. Thanks!

  3. Hi there! No, you shouldn’t have to edit xmlrpc.php… you need to create a file for your plugin, and a class of the same name (see the examples given)…

    So, if you’re creating a class “MyAwesomePlugin”, you’d put it in the plugin directory in a file called myawesomeplugin.php. Then on the IFTTT side of things you’d tell your action to use that plugin by creating a category plugin:MyAwesomePlugin.

    Whenever your action gets triggered, the payload will get fired at your endpoint and routed to your handler.

  4. Hi Marcus. Please check out hookify.io We created it for just the kind of problems you are talking about. As someone who understands these problems and webhooks, I’d like to hear what you think of it. We are gearing up to let in our next batch of testers. If you are interested, sign up for the beta and I’ll make sure you get in the next batch.

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