A Website for Ebenezer Scrooge

Is it Christmas? Yes.

A man dressed as Santa Claus poses during a base flying event in Berlin. (Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters)

He ran to the window, opened it, and put out his head.

“What’s today?” cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes.

We may stop the story here.

For seven years, users have turned to IsItChristmas.com with a simple question. “Is it Christmas?” they ask (for it is in fact the only question they can ask).

“Yes,” replies the website, or “No,” and either way the answer arrives magisterially and with great purpose (for it is in fact the website’s only purpose).

I myself have discharged this duty many times, both on Christmas and not. I have seen the site’s creator, Eric Mill, add small features. I have seen many other single-serving sites pop up, which sometimes dispatch their unitary task with as much nobility and singularness of mind as IsItChristmas.com. I have even seen a report on these sites appear, in the form of a single-serving site: IsThisYourPaperOnSingleServingSites.com.

But, as you may have heard, the web has changed. Sites are so passé. What users want now are apps—or, really, what they really want are services.

(Author’s note: I do not actually believe this. Users still want websites, too.)

And so Mill has teamed up with If This, Then That. And now we have Is It Christmas? …As A Service.

What is If This, Then That (IFTTT)? It lets people hook up the output of one feed, website, social network, or service into the input of another. You can use IFTTT with Tumblr, Google Calendar, Facebook, and your cellphone. For instance, you can tell IFTTT to send you a new tweet every time a certain RSS feed posts a new article. (That’s exactly what we do for our @TheAtlanticTECH Twitter account.) Or you could tell it to text you every time your friend has a new post on Tumblr. Or to make a new event in your calendar every time you send an email to a certain address. Or to send all the links from a certain Twitter feed to Instapaper.

Most importantly, though, it tends to have inputs that activate sporadically and unreliably. You don’t know when your friend will publish a new Tumblr post, or when you’ll send that email, or when that Twitter feed will post a link.

So this “Is It Christmas?” IFTTT channel is unusual for the service. It triggers exactly once, per year, and you know when it will happen.

And that makes it fun. As IFTTT’s celebratory blog post suggests, you can now have it remind you to tweet about it being Christmas. Or text you on Christmas. Or write an email ahead of time to auto-send on Christmas morning.

It’s a new spin on a now-almost decade-old digital way to ring in the Yule.

So let us return to hoary Dickens.

“What’s today?” cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes.

“Today?” replied the boy. “Why, Christmas Day!”