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August 19, 2009

Google Alerts Gets PubSubHubbub, Real-Time Programmable Hooks

The Web is speeding up, and Google is playing a big role in making how we get our information faster - no matter its type. Recently, a pair of the company's engineers, Brett Slatkin and Brad Fitzpatrick, have teamed up to roll out a new protocol, PubSubHubbub, to accelerate just about every major part of the Google sphere in which I play - from Google Reader shared items to FeedBurner, Blogger and today, Google Alerts.

If you thought Google Alerts was fast before, it's like Google went out and gave it an entirely new engine. Now, if I Google comes across a term I am tracking, I can expect to get near-instant updates saying it has been found. In a blog post today, Slatkin says its more than just about getting these terms faster and quicker, but also to help developers create tools and write Web applications that take advantage of this functionality. He writes, "Think of it as an AJAX search API that tells *you* when it finds new results. Acting upon these notifications your app could update your website, email friends, send an SMS -- the possibilities are endless."

Thus far, I've never really considered Google Alerts as a potential development platform, but as Slatkin suggests, the opportunity is now there to create an entire family of applications pointed at Alerts, much like others have pointed to the company's Maps product to make interesting mashups.

Anything that can help the Web get quicker, aid discovery, and enable even sharper apps is exciting, and I've been watching the developments with PubSubHubbub very closely. If I were a developer making a news discovery product based on topics (like Technorati or Lazyfeed, for example), I would check and see how I could tap into this real-time firehose for Google Alerts.

Google has been dinged, relative to Twitter and others, for not owning the real-time search race. But as the PubSubHubbub religion gets propagated, I think it is pretty clear where this is all headed. Not only will Google get this real-time space and lead again, but they are helping developers by enabling access to quality code and the best data faster than ever before.