PubSubHubbub – the not quite real time web

There seems to be some confusion with some articles I have read about what PubSubHubbub (PuSH) does with regards to the real time web. This article should clear up some aspects of PubSubHubbub.

PubSubHubbub is a protocol to turn the polling (pulling) style of communication for RSS and Atom feeds into a push mechanism. This is great for those blogs that update very often, but most blogs will be much less frequent, so polling them for updates is very inefficient.

So does PubSubHubbub mean that all our news readers (apps or web based) suddenly become real time for any feed supporting PubSubHubbub? Do they get a new blog posting pushed to them as soon as it is published? Well, no, it doesn’t mean that at all.

PubSubHubbub is a server to server protocol. It is for news aggregators to receive blog updates, not for a news reader client to receive the updates. It is still up to each news reader to implement that last hop however they like. PubSubHubbub subscribers are meant to be semi permanent end points, not a news reader application or web page that may not be running, or, possibly more importantly, may not be publically addressable.

So this is good for the Google Reader server side infrastructure to receive blog posts as soon as they are published – but people looking at their Google Reader in their browser will not be receiving real time blog posts. They will be quicker since the server got them instantly – but I believe the Google Reader browser app polls the server for updates.

PubSubHubbub is a great advancement in real time feeds, however it’s just not quite what a lot of people seem to think it is. For it to achieve this the last hop needs to be real time too.

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  • Its only a small step for the server to push the updates to the readers. Obviously its not necessary to use the HTTP protocol with readers but i still think its a small step

  • Martin Tyler says:

    I agree it isn’t necessarily a big problem – I just want to make it clear that PuSH doesnt mean all the way to clients.

    I don’t think the server to server aspect that PuSH does solve was particularly difficult either, but it still took years before anyone bothered doing it.

  • Well RssCloud had been specified in 2001 which is similar but less elegant solution . But it always takes something easier to use to get it going.

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