PubSub: They're Baaaaack

PubSub is certainly more well known for its self-induced implosion last year than for the product itself. The company developed what they called a “future search engine” that allowed users to type in keywords and get blog and other RSS-enabled news back as it was published.

It was a good idea, and one emulated by most of the blog search engines over time. But the company’s founders, Bob Wyman and Salim Ismail, never got along and their private disputes eventually turned very public. Ismail left the company after a power struggle, a merger with KnowNow fell apart and the company shut down. Even after that, Wyman kept swiping at Ismail on his blog.

Today, Ismail and Wyman have moved on. Ismail heads up Yahoo Brickhouse, a new semi-autonomous business unit to foster new product development within Yahoo. Wyman works for Google on an internal project known, intriguingly, as PubSub as well.

I thought we’d heard the last of PubSub. But today Ian Bell emailed to say that the company is in the process of relaunching – and sure enough a new home page is up. Bell says that PubSub’s investors, who took over the company after a controversial recapitalization which left some of the minority stockholders steaming, have sold most of the assets to his startup, along with $1 million in fresh capital. He’s now in charge of PubSub.

Bell says they’ll relaunch PubSub in six months or so as a “consumer friendly version of Yahoo Pipes.” Since he won’t say any more right now, we’re left speculating exactly what that will be and how PubSub’s technology fits into it. In the meantime, he says, they’ll be launching a Facebook application in the next month that directly uses PubSub’s matching engine. You tell the application what you like and it will deliver relevant news and information to you on the subject.

Just Don’t Look Under The Carpet

All of the bad blood created with the original PubSub saga hasn’t completely settled yet. The minority shareholders, we hear, are very upset about the way Polygon Capital handled the KnowNow merger discussions and eventual winding down of the company. In the end, Polygon and their associates supposedly owned all of the assets of the company, leaving the founders and minority stockholders with nothing. Polygon never settled the matter with them, and there was little reason to sue given that the company was in limbo. But if the new PubSub is successful there could suddenly be a pot of money to go after, and that could spark new litigation interest from the old shareholders.

Whatever happens, the drama is likely to continue. And all that attention, Bell says, is “great PR” for his new startup.

Update: Bell says below that I misquote him slightly in the last paragraph above, which is highly likely given my poor listening skills. I take misquotes seriously because what really matters (usually) is what someone meant to say, not what they actually said. In this case, it may have been neither. Apologies.