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Stephen Logan

What is PubSubHubbub?

7th Aug 2009 News, Industry News 2 minutes to read

Real-time information flow could be coming to an Atom or RSS feed near you thanks to PubSubHubbub. It’s a simple concept with a complex infrastructure, but one which could prove hugely beneficial to a range of news seekers online.

Social media has often been lauded for its real-time information sharing capabilities. In fact not all that long ago I asked the hypothetical question ‘has Twitter made the RRS feed redundant?’ Back then it may have been true, but the emergence of the PubSubHubbub model from Google might well reverse all of that.

The idea of a hub is to glean the information that you want from it. You can cut out all of the peripheral news and irrelevant stories, to instantly get what you want and who you want to get it from. Google Reader has gained a reasonably sized group of followers during its lifetime, but has never really garnered the same interest as most of their other more obvious products.

With the increased speed and interaction afforded by the PubSubHubbub, that could all be about to change.

So what is the PubSubHubbub all about?

Well, put simply, it’s a three way relationship between the publisher, subscriber and the hub. The latter of these plays the middle man, with the subscriber requesting the information they want from the hub and the publisher providing it.

Information publishers can simply distribute their latest posts to one source (the hub), where it can then be instantly passed on to subscribers. This saves the publisher the time and effort of sending it out individually; whilst also allowing subscribers to get the news delivered directly to them.


Google PubSubHubbub Flow Diagram: Green = Publishers, Pink = Subscribers & Yellow = Hubs

Obviously this can allow greater distribution of information too. By linking your feed into the central PubSubHubbub, it is easily searchable and should find its way to a far broader yet targeted readership.

Hubs have been touted as a potential replacement for social media in the future, notably because of their more stringent rules on shameless marketing and greater focus. With the Google name attached to this new initiative, it stands every chance of catching the imagination of an audience far beyond the conventional Google Reader subscribers.

It may sound like a conventional Atom/RSS feeder, but in truth the PubSubHubbub goes much further. It’s a completely free entity, you don’t have to log on to Twitter or Google to access it; the model is fluid and organic, therefore each user has the opportunity to expand it how they like. It’s in real-time and you control exactly what feeds you want or where you wish to distribute them.

For those glued to their Google Reader or RSS feed PubSubHubbub will undoubtedly come as an exciting proposition. Elsewhere it could take some time to fully distribute. We’ll be keeping an eye on its progress and providing regular updates on how to optimise usage and how you can benefit from it.

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