The API Briefing: Building Apps with APIs Using If This Then That

Feb 18, 2015
Two robots with blank tablet computers

In my last posting, I argued that federal agencies should consider microservices architecture when releasing APIs. This is because allowing users to combine single-purpose apps together in unique ways helps people build personalized apps such as a driving map to local farmers markets. When given the opportunity, users will surprise you with the innovative creations they build from combining APIs.

Just last week, the popular If This Then That (IFTTT) service released a federal-friendly Terms of Service. This means that federal agencies can now use IFTTT to combine APIs without programming. You can create “recipes” from combining “channels” and adding “actions.” For example, looking at immediate benefits to managing federal social media, we can create a recipe where every Facebook post we send is auto-archived in a document for records management.

IFTTT recipe for send a SMS at a certain time every day
The major advantage of IFTTT is that no (or very little) programming is needed to connect APIs together. However, if more sophisticated logic is needed in connecting APIs, IFTTT’s federal Terms of Service opens up the Developer Platform. I am especially looking forward to how federal app builders will take advantage of the Developer Platform in creating and serving new federal APIs.

IFTTT’s usefulness has even led to a similar service for back-end development—Stamplay. Stamplay uses the same IFTTT building-block concept to make coding actions easier. For example, use Stamplay to visually build a module that adds a new email address to MailChimp when a user likes a federal agency Facebook page.

Making app development as easy as visually combining APIs like Lego blocks will lead to a greater demand for more federal APIs. Taking a microservices architecture approach and using services like IFTTT is the best way for the federal government to serve citizens through the promise of open data.

Disclaimer: All references to specific brands, products, and/or companies are used only for illustrative purposes and do not imply endorsement by the U.S. federal government or any federal government agency.

Each week in “The API Briefing,” I will showcase government APIs and the latest API news and trends. Visit this blog every week to learn how government APIs are transforming government and improving government services for the American people. If you have ideas for a topic or have questions about APIs, please contact me via email.

Dr. William A. Brantley is the HRIS Branch Chief in the USDA’s Rural Development Human Resources Office. You can find out more about his non-federal work in this space at All opinions are his own and do not reflect the opinions of the USDA and GSA.

Originally posted by Bill Brantley on Feb 18, 2015

USPTO | Washington D.C.

Feb 18, 2015