The six people who published the same ideas as Higgs were, chronologically,
Robert Brout + François Englert in Belgium; Peter Higgs in Scotland; and finally Tom Kibble in London, along with his colleagues in the United States, Gerald Guralnik (at the time in London) and Carl R. Hagen.All of these papers were published in 1964. The last one cited the first ones, visibly reducing the claims of a complete independence.
An Orsay, France conference last week was used to promote the meme that the first three authors should be ready for the Nobel prize - which, as you probably know, can be awarded at most to 3 people. Some people protested. Unless you are a Don of a PayPal or another mafia :-), you may be able to understand that some of the poor physicists may get upset about 1/3 of a million of dollars. :-)
Well, there are many important things that have not been said at all.
First, the Nobel prize for the Higgs mechanism in the Standard Model has already been distributed: Abdul Salam and Steven Weinberg received their fraction of the 1979 Nobel prize with Sheldon Glashow primarily for the "Weinberg toilet", as Sheldon Glashow called the Higgs sector because it's something that your apartment badly needs but it's not necessarily the greatest source of your pride.
Glashow himself was the key pioneer of the gauge-theoretical portion of the electroweak theory and his contributions began to be born in the early 1960s; the Higgs sector etc. was understood and added in the late 1960s.
Do you worry that GSW have already received the prize before the Higgs boson was seen? Well, they actually got the prize even 4 years before the W,Z bosons were seen - because it was damn clear that they would have been seen. And indeed, this clear knowledge turned out to be true. ;-)
Also, it's not being mentioned in the Nature article that Nambu essentially discovered the Higgs mechanism in 1960 while Philip Anderson did a similar thing in 1963. Both Gentlemen have already been given Nobel prizes for unrelated discoveries: in 2008 and 1977, respectively. The years show that Nambu in particular is a genuine visionary.
Well, I would also argue that some of the general rules of spontaneous symmetry breaking were actually discovered in the 1950 Landau-Ginzburg theory of superconductors that break the U(1) electromagnetic symmetry by the condensate of bosons which happen to be the Cooper pairs (as we know from another famous result). The photon also gets massive, in a sense, although the broken phase is not necessarily Lorentz-invariant (superconductors are not vacua) so some physics may change.
The Landau-Ginzburg paper itself was based on Landau's earlier theory of second-order phase transitions. Landau's status of a physics giant is unquestionable. And yes, he received his Nobel prize in 1962 which was pretty slow. To compare the speed, Landau got his Stalin prize already back in 1946 which was a more sensible timing! ;-)
I personally think that it is very wise that the Nobel prizes can't be given to more than 3 people. And I do think that the chronology has to play some role.
It's marginally OK to forget about those physicists who have already received a Nobel prize. So I find it pretty sensible to choose Brout, Englert, Higgs - although there has clearly been lots of related and relevant work (recall Goldstone whose name hasn't been mentioned yet - yes, he appears in the Nambu-Goldstone bosons).
The remaining three physicists in the list of six are very good physicists but I just dislike the idea of an ever more inclusive notion of "everyone" in the sentence "everyone deserves the same thing". Alfred Nobel defined very sensible rules to fight against this kind of inflation.
The experimental Higgs prize could be even more sensitive because it could potentially be given to a complete nobody who appeared at the right place in the right time - and we don't even know whether the right place is in Illinois or Switzerland while it's very likely that the right time is between 2011 and 2013 - but no one seems to care about this prize.
Also, I would find it way more difficult to choose both the theoretical and experimental Nobel prize winners for supersymmetry - which may be a task that could be awaiting its solution before the Higgs task because it may be easier to find SUSY. I personally think that there should be several - and I would say many - theoretical Nobel prizes for SUSY because its confirmation would be a truly exceptional breakthrough in physics that would surely outshine various CCDs and new colors of lasers for decades.