New Middle Web Sites: Techmeme and Google News

Techmeme Middle Web Site

Techmeme, the popular tech news aggregator, launched a new mobile site yesterday.  The official announcement is here.

I like what Techmeme has done,  The site, while targeted specifically at the iPhone, Android and Palm WebOS phones, isn't turning anyone away.  You can visit with any browser you want.  I tried it using the Android browser,  a Nokia N95-3's Webkit based browser, Opera Mini 4.2 and the old Openwave 6.2 emulator. I found that the new design worked just as well in Opera Mini (image, top) and Nokia Webkit as it did on Android. I believe that the site will work well on any mobile browser with reasonably good CSS and JavaScript support.  A screen at least 320px wide or Opera Mini's fit-to-width "Mobile View" is also desirable to avoid horizontal scrolling.

Not surprisingly the site was unusable in the Openwave emulator, which I'm using as a stand in for a feature phone (aka dumphone browser) as I no longer have a working one. The site loaded but was unusable. The text was scrunched into a single column five characters wide and the tabs and links to  "Discussions" of each news item were not clickable. That's not really a problem as Mini-Techmeme, the three year old version of Techmeme for old school mobile browsers  has not been discontinued and is still available at

The new iPhone/Android/Web OS/Opera Mini/Symbian Webkit version of Techmeme has virtually everything that's on Techmeme's  desktop site including the "Discussion" feature which pulls in other stories that link to each item. The discussions are excluded from Mini-Techmeme.

It's not just Techmeme that got the new design either.  Sister sites Memeorandum on politics, WeSmirch for entertainment gossip and Ballbug for baseball also have new smartphone optimized versions at, and respectively.

I do have one minor beef with the new design though.  Why did Techmeme feel the need to  disable the browser "Back" button and replace it with an in-page "Back" link? That's non-standard, non-intuitive and just plain confusing for users.

Giigle News Middle Web Site

Coincidentally, Google also launched a new version of Google News yesterday and it's also targeted at the iPhone, Android and Palm OS.  They basically did the same thing as Techmeme, redirecting the chosen browsers from to the new site.  They also left a backdoor open at which can be accessed from any browser.  Like  the new Techmeme, this richer mobile version also works in Opera Mini and Symbian Webkit but not OpenWave (it renders OK but some of the links depend on Javascript which the browser doesn't support).  The enhanced mobile version of Google news uses a fluid layout and renders well in Opera Mini even on screens as narrow as 128px wide, and the browser's back button works.  Compared with the legacy mobile News version at, the new one has more images, links to mobile formatted YouTube videos and it picks up the user's custom local news and keyword based sections from the desktop version of Google News.

I'm sure we will be seeing more and more of these "iPhone/Android/Web OS" optimized sites.  That's a good thing for users of more capable browsers but poses a problem for mobile bloggers and analysts.  What to call this gendre of  mid-sized (between desktop and traditional mobile web) sites?  I've heard them called "iPhone", "Smartphone" and "Touch" sites but none of those really fits as they work on more than the iPhone, including with some non-smartphone browsers like Opera Mini and they don't depend on a touchscreen either. The best term I've heard seems to be "Middle Web" which was coined by Kelly Goto back in 2007.  That's what I'll be using to describe this class of rich mobile sites, at least until something better comes along.  Suggestions anyone?

One thought on “New Middle Web Sites: Techmeme and Google News

  1. Maybe you've mentioned it elsewhere, but in the past month I noticed Facebook has added a "Touch" link at the bottom of their mobile site. I haven't tested it out to see if any browsers are redirected automatically. A very cool addition.

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