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Microsoft Flow (microsoft.com)
197 points by imarihantnahata on Apr 30, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 94 comments

Wasn't this called Yahoo Pipes in 2008?

Also https://github.com/node-red/node-red , comes ootb on Raspbian.

Another popular option is: https://zapier.com/

Is there anything that both has an android client and is open source?

The Fr8 Company is at http://www.fr8.co. They're going to make a bunch of their code available as open source shortly.

Yeah, but this one will integrate pretty well with visual studio

Just watched the "how it works" video and I'm less than impressed (can anything impress me these days?).

"Why constantly check e-mail when you can get a text message when anyone important e-mails you..."

Actually, I receive a push notification whenever I receive an email. I'd hate to receive SMS messages instead of e-mails.


"Say someone tweets something about your company. Set up a flow that follows them, sends a nice reply, adds him to a spreadsheet which then gets sent to Salesforce".

Yeah, so someone tweets "YourCompany fucking sucks!" and now the flow automatically follows him, sends a ridiculous "nice reply" and adds an obviously unsatisfied customer (or whatever) to the CRM..


"Working smarter, so you can work less and do more",

I think I've heard this promise a thousand times before.

I don't know about the Flow service, but the ad video is quite dumb and uninspired, just like the background music.. who composes all these identical tech ad songs ?

You might be right in the certain situations but this is an open tool with a wide array of possible uses for people. Such a pessimistic approach doesn't allow for any exploration when think about its potential uses.

Frankly, I don't really care. Really. It might be the greatest tool ever created..

There's too much great software and not enough head space to fit it all in.

This proliferation of tools and services hasn't achieved the proverbial "work less do more" which all of them promise.

They are necessary in order to deal with the increased complexity of technology (and our lives), but the catch is - once we integrate them into our work(life)flow, we add another layer of complexity and hence give up even more control to third parties.

I guess this is why Flow has been created, but the catch is the same - once you integrate it, you add another layer of tweaking and twiddling until it all becomes a monster with a life of its own.

There was an article here on HN yesterday - 'you probably don't need any js lib for your project' and I totally agree with the author.

We can live without layers upon layers of complexity, albeit with a bit more 'manual' work - we have to reduce it rather than try to build meta layers on top of existing ones.

Sorry for the gloomy mood, I guess it's the weather.

This is basically IFTTT. Tons of people use IFTTT, even if I have only found a need for it a few times.

'you probably don't need any js lib for your project' is true, but 'I can probably use modern JS libs to write a competitor 5x faster than your from-scratch project, assuming it's at least moderately complex' is also true.

Well, I've always found what you said to be true anyway, gloomy weather or not.

Theres a lot of tech which we are none the worse off for ignoring. The more curmudgeonly of us eventually figure out what is actually going to move the needle and what isn't.

And as a simple rule - nothing will make your life less difficult, it will only give you more spare time which will then be absorbed into work - or your job is redundant.

hmm, maybe it is the weather.

...who composes all these identical tech ad songs ?

Microsoft Songsmith. [1]

1. http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/redmond/projects/song...

It's a genre in itself. Upbeat, empty, disconnected, fake. Just like the copywriting and actors in Microsoft ads.

It's called "Forced Fun."

> Yeah, so someone tweets "YourCompany fucking sucks!"

No one would ever use twitter solely for that purpose...surely...

Unlikely, that tweet has no spelling errors.

>I don't know about the Flow service, but the ad video is quite dumb and uninspired, just like the background music.. who composes all these identical tech ad songs ?

Ad composers with a production note: "Make it bland and copying for the Nth time, 2010-era Apple video music".

And stock music services, like this: https://www.musicbed.com/

Is it so difficult for you to imagine someone who doesn't have push notifications enabled? I don't like being alerted by emails, but that means I sometimes miss time-sensitive messages from my boss. I would actually like texts when my boss emails me, because that would be the only alert I get outside of normal SMS.

Sure, but that's a narrow niche for "push"-averting people.

Hardly something to write home about for "working smarter" in general.

Interesting. I love the idea of this product, I work in finance and accounting and I'm already thinking of ways to apply.

However, the examples used in this video are awful for the reasons you outlined. Plus, there's already good software solutions for email management and social media monitoring.

I think this ad is pretty bad, but the actual product could revolutionize workflow in many business functions.

Good thing they picked up a unique name that won't collide with any other similar named projects.

They obviously did some type checking on the name[1]. I'm sure they Squared up the UI elements while they were developing it[2]. The moments before launch must have been pretty tense though[3]. I just hope this service supports file uploads[4].

1. https://github.com/facebook/flow

2. https://github.com/square/flow

3. https://github.com/tensorflow/tensorflow

4. https://github.com/flowjs/flow.js

They probably used FTP while developing [5] and a lot of online chatting [6].

[5] http://fivedetails.com/flow/

[6] https://www.getflow.com/apps/

To get it done, they would have used project management [7] whilst management decided on EDI integration suites. [8]

7. https://www.getflow.com

8. http://www.flowsoftware.com

Do you think they were a little bitter about Slack and probably used a competitor [9] instead?

9. https://www.flowdock.com/

Yeah, because (Apple) Pages or (Google) Docs or (Apple|Google|Yahoo) Mail or (Google) Cloud are unique names. You could argue all these add their brand in front of the name, like this case exactly.


I'm glad someone else thought this. Almost seems like an elaborate ruse to hide the other flows. Or for their service to never be found again.

Someone should send a Lync message to them about writing a Linq query to find all the links for projects with similar names.

I wish when companies picked these common names that they would also define a ~unique search team for people to use, ie: "when discussing on forums please use msflow" or something like that.

Microsoft already created (and abandoned) a IFTTT competitor in 2012: http://onx.ms

"on{X} lets you control and extend the capabilities of your Android phone using a JavaScript API to remotely program it."

Perhaps in the same space, but that's a very specific sub-niche. This new offering looks more like an actual competitor.

yeah, I still have it installed on my phone, it was a great tool, I can't believe MS abandoned it and now it's reinventing a less cool version of it :-(

To me, this looks like their own implementation of the Azure Logic Apps product. (https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/articles/app...).

I don't believe this is intended to be a consumer level product at all. In that sense, it's not an IFTTT competitor. Given it's got implementation points to Sql Azure, Azure Blob storage, swagger, etc. this is likely meant as a product for devs to use to hook-up integrations.

I think you're right...the available services list looks very similar to what's available in Flow: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/articles/api...

Exactly what I was going to say. I setup some logic apps but never really dug into this much beyond their demos.

Following on the heels of this will be Azure's Functions (Serverless/Lambda) architecture, which will overlap some things here (for devs).

/* I'm a PM on Azure Functions */

Logic Apps and Flow are done by the same team, actually, so that's no surprise. Logic Apps is for "Azure" users, which is mostly IT Pros and Dev. Flow is intended to compliment Power Apps. They can both be built by users aren't necessarily pro devs, but can use a drag-n-drop interface for configuring things.

Functions are code driven by events. Logic Apps are workflow driven by events. You can actually use the two together, which makes for some cool scenarios.

LOVE WHEN THIS HAPPENS (and so many reasons why I love Hacker News :-)

I'm in the Bizspark++ Program -- and I've had a blast playing and learning with all of the Azure products -- and I'm really looking forward to seeing improvements on Python and Bash functions.

Keep it up, I'll be stalking your documentation updates :-)


It sounds like they're going more for Zapier than IFTTT.

It says it's a free service and doesn't directly mention any restrictions, but when you try to sign up it will only accept something it thinks is a work or school email address. So I guess self-employed people who use Gmail don't count?

It looks like they are just trying to limit abuse during a rollout. Forcing a "work" or "school" email to try and hold back anonymous signups.

You can pre check an email with their embedded ajax call:


If the JSON comes back with "consumerDomain":true, then it won't allow the signup.

They don't seem to be catching all free email services. At the moment, it appears you could sign up for a free Yandex email and get signed up for Flow:


assume they're doing a soft launch with o365 for business customers before full launch

It's been turned on for some time now. Just no marketing push that I've seen. Quietly hidden away on Azure under another name, IIRC. It's early still, though, and my memory is going a bit. :)

The earlier offering was Azure Logic Apps, which is different than Microsoft Flow.

Logic Apps is offered as part of Azure and is targeted at developers and IT shops. Logic Apps are much more about heavy weight integration (e.g. business-to-business communications, back-office connectivity to SAP), akin to Biztalk. Details here: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/articles/app...

On the other hand, Flow is aimed at business end users with light weight connectivity / automation needs (e.g. the examples in the video on the home page). It does not have support for a lot of things devs or IT need, like source control, monitoring, scripting, etc.

Disclaimer: did dev work for both. Hope that helps!

I really hate how MSFT doesn't always respect its own SSO. Jeebus. I can't login with my live account. It's free, but you have to use a work/school account. Really?

They have more integrations than are showing on the home page, but the only way to see the full list is to sign up.

I uploaded some screen shots showing the available services/integrations:


Dev A: "So, what other integrations should we add?"

Dev B: "What about Skype? It's one of our products."

Dev A: "I don't care, I only use Slack. Screw our users, right?"

Dev B: "What about Skype for Business? People actually pay for that."

Dev A: "Nah, Wunderlist is much more important. Much."

Judging by the state of the various Skype apps, I suspect that getting anything added to Skype is a kafkaesque nightmare.

I bet these guys just let it drop in order to get their product released.

Last time I checked, the main problem with regular Skype was being registered and accredited by MS as a legit app. One would expect MS would trust itself...

Skype For Business / Lync is a total nightmare of enterprisey permission models, yeah.

There are 35+ services supported today, with new ones planned each week for quite some time.

Also, it is possible to register your own REST APIs and share them with others in your organization.

Within Microsoft, we have a lot of internal custom APIs registered to light up some interesting automations / flows. Details here: https://powerapps.microsoft.com/en-us/tutorials/register-cus...

Disclaimer: am a dev on the team

There used to be a tool called conduit, part of Gnome. It was pretty amazing, in fact pretty much did DropBox before Dropbox but also synced everything and allowed for custom actions.

Could have been a killer app for Gnome, but Gnome decided that redesigning the notifications area and the clock was more important.

It's not mentioned on the landing page, but Flow integrates with PowerApps [1]. The PowerApps console shows Flows [2], and PowerApps can trigger Flows [3].

[1] https://powerapps.microsoft.com/en-us/

[2] http://i.imgur.com/dKxw9Tz.png

[3] http://i.imgur.com/UjJ7Bcg.png

yet another stupid and uninformative $company_name + $company_product title.

Better title: "Microsoft Flow: Automation Workflow and Task automation"

I don't get it, what's the problem? Just google "Microsoft Flow". Seems fine to me.

Would love to see an IFTT.com integration :P

Any clues on why the site asks to uniquely identify my phone?

A new Zapier competitor (happy paying customer here).

Looks like Microsoft is making zapier / ifttt.

Why would I use Flow over IFTTT?

Because it will (or rather should) better tie into MS properties like Sharepoint, Office365, Azure and so on, which lots of people already use for work.

This said, they completely ignored Skype, so...

MS is iterating on skype web versions and and apis for skype and lync (skype for business). I'm sure it will come in time.

If the developers are reading this, when I watch the video in Opera and make it full screen the video doesn't stay centered and I can only see half of it. It's falling off the left side of the page.

Also on iPad (Safari)

Microsoft Automator?

Pretty cool feature macs have had for over 10 years

I wonder what this means for ITTT?

well, I'm sure IFTTT is more nimble than Microsoft and can leverage that by focusing on specific high margin verticals, though Kudos to MSFT for sure.

I do love how clued in MSFT is these days. Really raises the bar for everyone.

If this Microsoft thing then that Microsoft thing.

Did you actually read it? It has integration with a ton of non-Microsoft products?

If you're going to be pedantic over an obvious joke, then at least be more specific than "a ton." Total service breadth (11) is presently countable on fingers while naked.

>Total service breadth (11) is presently countable on fingers

I tried, but it keeps overflowing the data type.

Edit: There are actually 31 services: http://imgur.com/a/NR7Af

Just ... Just take off a shoe, man.

Do you have really big fingers?

Microsoft always gives the vibe of a company that is desperate to salvage some pride from its glory days. It was once a giant, but now they're on the brink of redundancy, in terms of being viewed as "innovative".

This opinion may be controversial to many, but it is what a lot of people are thinking. They experiment, which is phenomenal. But none of those experiments have been a major hit.

Apple has flagship products like the iPhone, etc. Google has search, Android, and even Youtube at the center of its existence. A fallback option, if you please.

Mircosoft "somewhat" has Windows, but hasn't really nailed it yet. These "experiments" will not bring back the glory days.

Ok I'll feed the troll.

I've excitedly watched what Apple has done in the last 10 years (and exclusively use Apple devices in my home, and have convinced many family members to switch).

But as a technologist who likes to see companies with great resources move fast, to me MS has been much more exciting lately as a tech company than Apple.

We are seeing the manifestation of the new Satya Nadella decree, which went from "prop up Windows at any cost" to just "build stuff people like."

We're constantly seeing these kinds of things come out of MS now, and I can't help but see that it must be a really exciting time to be an MS employee right now, judging by the sheer amount of experimentation going on.

I think this nails it. In many ways, Microsoft is playing catch-up with Apple, Google, and Facebook. But they have good momentum right now. I, for one, am happy with the Nadella era.

Firstly, I didn't intend to "troll" Microsoft.

Well, I agree with the last sentence. Satya Nadella was the much needed U-turn from the Balmer era. It's just that by the standards Microsoft has set for itself, they've under-performed over the years. I'm talking about major failed experiments like Windows Vista, Lumia (or even the entire Nokia acquisition)

And I think that's why the "Satya U-Turn" is so promising. Vista and Lumia were Ballmer-era failures. I work at Microsoft on Azure; it feels like a new era. The open source feel is real, even if we might fail at it here and there. PMs on the freaking SQL Server team were using Macs, because they want to feel the pain of SQL users on Macs. It's really good stuff.

Absolutely. Now by my estimation there is still some effort going into supporting those Ballmer-era failures, but such is the burden of being a company as large as Microsoft.

Microsoft without the dead-weight of having to support failed tech — Now that is a place I would like to work.

Edit: Do you think that Microsoft is actively taking steps in trying to do away with supporting things like Vista, etc?

Wait why is apple being held up as an example of an innovative company again? As far as i am aware apple had the ipod in 2001, the iphone in 2007 and the ipad in 2010. Pretty much every release of any of those items in the last 6 years have been incremental upgrades.

This isnt to be negative on Apple, just saying they are a great quality, style, design company. and an amazing financial success but they havent been innovative for quite some time.

The funny part is Microsoft under Satya has made a large push to distance themselves from the Ballmer-led Microsoft.

A push for (at least some form of) open-source, a Windows offering that has been more stable and feature-added at launch than several past versions.

I'd gamble on more innovation out of Microsoft than Apple in the next 10 years.

They prevented root from modifying anything in /usr/bin - that's a fairly unique innovation I'd have thought.

>It was once a giant, but now they're on the brink of redundancy

Pretty sure they're doing okay in enterprise office software

Microsoft, like every other company, has some failures and some successes, that's the nature of innovation; you stick with the ideas that work and abandon (hopefully quickly) the ones that fail.

You're correct, some of the Microsoft experiments have failed but you need to balance that with the ones that are doing well such as Office365 and Azure.

Indeed. I may have judged them from the technologies that I see being used commonly, and turned a blind eye to important ones. That being said, Office365 and Azure are fairly popular anywhere.

Let's say, for argument's sake, that everything you say is true. So what? Are you giving investment advice? Or warning us from seeking employment?

I know the popularity of bashing MS hasn't waned. Maybe it's even deserved. But how's it relevant to this post?

When have they ever been considered innovative? Virtually every successful product has been either copied from or bought outright from another company. The only real exception I can think of is OneNote (which preceded EverNote by 5 years).

Who would you actually consider to be innovative then?

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