PubSub Finally Rises From the Dead [Kind of]

[UPDATE: Bob Wyman, founder of PubSub, left several comments to this post clarifying many of my questions and assumptions in this post.]

If you know PubSub (not to be confused with Google’s PubSubHubub) you’re an old timer in this space. PubSub was what Google Alerts was before Google Alerts existed. PubSub was the first example of the Power of Real Time Web back when @ev and @biz were still building Blogger.

Here’s the Wikipedia info describing what the original product was:

PubSub (website) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

PubSub was a prospective search engine for searching blogs, press releases, Usenet, USGS earthquake alerts, SEC filings and FAA Flight Delay information.

The site, founded in 2002 by Bob Wyman and Salim Ismail, operated by storing a user’s search term, making it a subscription, and checking it against posts on blogs which ping the search engine. When a new match was found, the user was notified, even if it occurred months after the initial search. This feature led PubSub to call itself a matching engine. It also checks incoming Usenet posts, USGS earthquake alerts, press release via NITF, SEC filings and FAA flight delay information.

Results could be read on the service’s website, or on an optional sidebar, available for both Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, written by Malcolm Pollack and Duncan A. Werner respectively, or via RSS. Results could also be delivered to remote systems via Restful APIs, email or XMPP

I’ve always had a soft spot and fond memories of PubSub. Richard MacManus has a good post from 2006 detailing the final days of PubSub

The Sad Decline of PubSub

It’s a shame to hear from Bob Wyman that PubSub is in trouble and in big danger of shutting its doors. Bob says that “internal political issues” are behind PubSub’s demise and implies that this has deflected resources from actually improving the product. It’s not my place to comment on the politics, but I do think PubSub has dropped the ball on the product front.

PubSub once held so much promise… It was the first real ‘future search’ product to gain traction and it was an innovator in the area of custom RSS feeds. The somewhat clumsy term I’ve used for that is Topic/Tag/Remix Feeds and here’s what I said about it back in January 2005:

I was heart broken when Google ripped them off and then when they couldn’t continue to innovate, again when they went under (I’ve always suspected that Google’s PubSubHubub was somehow paying homage to the original PubSub they helped kill).

But now they’re back. And no surprise it’s a real time search engine that searches, blogs, Twitter, FriendFeed or anything with an RSS feed. But it just seems to be displaying sports results so far.

So far the site isn’t anything to get excited about yet but as far as I can tell they haven’t officially launched. I’m also willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

The CrunchBase posting hasn’t been updated yet and still says that Something Simpler (the new Vancouver , CA  parent company) will be launching a new search engine in the winter of 2008. Well they only missed that mark be one year.  Their own site has this to say:

Something Simpler Systems

In fact we’re burning the candle at both ends to deliver you services that up the signal and stomp out the noise, allowing you to read less and know more, and to never miss out on the events you truly would have enjoyed.

We’re a leading-edge company charting a new course in the next-generation of the Web: a web that is personalized just for you; a web that understands your needs and wants; and a web that allows the things you’re interested in to find you, rather than the other way round.

They’ve given PubSub the tagline “Find the Future” You can see their real time results page here

PubSub Matching Engine | Something Simpler

Our Publish/Subscribe engine supports advanced, context-based filtering, matching, and sorting of realtime web-based content. Later in 2008, we’ll be releasing an API so that you, too can enjoy the benefits of this powerful capability. In the meantime, keep checking back here for details or subscribe to our email notification list.

Besides PubSub they also have another product which they say is only available in Facebook but the site just points to the same place as the PubSub site.

Pulse apparently has its own history:

Facebook Pulse Killed
Facebook Pulse To Return
Pulse, a Facebook App, is Alive! | Something Simpler

By the sounds of the description of the Facebook app it seems to be a recommendation engine but I’m not personally familiar with it. There is a Fan Page but the actual application doesn’t seem to exist. Here’s the description from the Something Simpler site:

Keep your finger on the Pulse of Music, Movies, and more.. | Something Simpler

Keep your finger on the Pulse of Music, Movies, and more..

Pulse is an application (currently only available within Facebook) that learns about you and the things you like, and allows you to use a simple, fun compatibility test to determine which of your friends you have likes and dislikes in common with. Once Pulse knows enough about you, it begins to send you ideas about new music, movies, books, and other things which it thinks you might be interested in.

I can’t find anything on the blogs about their relaunch so this may be a stealth launch but there doesn’t seem to be much information available yet. Hopefully we’ll learn more soon and I look forward to PubSub finally living up to its potential.

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About Tac Anderson

Social media anthropologist. Communications strategist. Business model junkie. Chief blogger here at New Comm Biz.
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  • Mark Phillip

    We built a niche version for sports at

  • rafer

    It's Ian Bell. i can't find his linkedin page for some reason.

  • PubSub

    Bob Wyman, one of the founders of the original PubSub, now works for Google. So yeah, ripping off PubSub with PubSubHubub is not a coincidence.

  • Pingback: SearchCap: The Day In Search, December 31, 2009

  • tacanderson

    uh, ok

  • tacanderson

    who is?

  • tacanderson

    HA! I knew it! Thanks for the validation.

  • rafer

    ceo of somethingsimpler

  • bobwyman

    You wrote: “I was heart broken when Google ripped them [PubSub] off…”
    Google did NOT rip-off and the demise of the company had absolutely nothing to do with Google or anything Google did. The company failed due to internal issues which were personnel related– basically, I made an exceptionally bad decision about who to make CEO of the company when I founded it and we all ended up paying for my mistake a few years later.

  • bobwyman

    There is no relationship between the fact that I work at Google and the fact that other Google employees are working on the PubSubHubbub open source project. I don't even work in the same part of Google as the folk who work on PSHB. It is true that I support their work and am active in their public mailing lists, however, that has nothing to do with my job at Google.
    Folk with some experience in this area will remember that Brad Fitzpatrick, one of the key developers of PSHB, implemented real-time feeds and pubsub systems while he was at LiveJournal and later at SixApart. What you see in PSHB is really the result of probably over 6 years or so of noodling around the same problem set by a large number of people — long before many of them came to Google. In any case, most of PSHB was actually defined and implemented long before I even heard about it.
    Whatever the case, PSHB is really great stuff and I strongly encourage everyone to use it as well as to help the open process of defining its specification (still a work in progress).

  • malcolmpollack

    Glad to see somebody still remembers PubSub — we did think we were on to something big, and it was a shame to see it die an untimely death. As Bob said above, though, that had nothing to do with Google.

    I'll be keeping an eye on the new site too.

    Malcolm Pollack

  • tacanderson

    Aw, way to take the steam from my sails. Bob. I appreciate all your comments here and appreciate you clearing up many of the questions I had.

  • bobwyman

    Errr…. Sorry to correct you again, however, I am not the “former CEO of PubSub”. PubSub was an idea that I'd been thinking about since the mid-80's, but when it came time to found the company, I let Salim Ismail be the CEO so that I could concentrate on the technology as CTO. Choosing Salim to be CEO of PubSub was, in my opinion, the single greatest mistake I've made in over 30 years in the technology business.

  • m65

    Bob Wyman, one of the founders of the original PubSub, now works for Google. So yeah, ripping off PubSub with PubSubHubub is not a coincidence.

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