More and more, mobile devices are giving us the freedom to consume information on the go. That’s why popular apps like Flipboard and Pulse have gained so much traction. They present content in a simple and easy to search way. China of course has followed suit with a string of copycats, Zaker being the earliest Flipboard clone. Now a new mobile reading platform called Miniweb, from Hong Kong based start-up Webnova, has launched and is seeing the same attention.

Similar to Pulse, Miniweb allows a user to read and discover content across different categories such as news, tech, fashion etc. that is curated by the team. Alternatively users can add their favourite content, such as TechNode! Each source is known as a ‘channel’ and Miniweb has already preset over 2,000 of them. Sources can be pulled from web links, RSS, Twitter and Weibo. Of course you can also share content through Facebook and Twitter. The great thing about it is that it only extracts the essential parts that you care about; pictures and text. It disregards annoying ads and other noise that can distract your reading experience. By doing this, it takes 5-10x faster to download. For people in Hong Kong, it can also convert simplified to traditional Chinese. Miniweb is available on iOS, Android and desktop computer as a client.

As a media aggregator, Miniweb works closely with content partners. Since channels are organized and ranked by popularity based on traffic, media channels can see how well they are doing in real time. The higher you appear, the more viewers you have. This gives a good reason for media like us to compete.

When I was in Hong Kong I had a chance to meet up with Miranda Gao, Marketing Manager for Webnova. She explained that although  there are other players out there, Miniweb serves the Hong Kong reader and eventually Mainland China. Initially the start-up was a concerned that not many people would use it, since they found out that people only like to read from 1-2 traditional print sources and don’t really use RSS but they were pleasantly surprised when it became the number 1 news app for 5 days in a row in Hong Kong.  MiniWeb quickly gained so much traction in early January that it achieved an amazing 10,000+ downloads in a single day!

For the free version, users can only add 12 channels. Starting from today as part of a Chinese New Year campaign, all 3 customers  who signed up before Jan 31, 2012 will be upgraded to the unlimited version for free! Current users can just refresh MiniWeb and they will be able to subscribe to unlimited channels! The benefit to 3, is that since Miniweb only extracts core information of text and pictures, plus once content is synced it can be read offline, the strain on bandwidth and costs are deduced for the carrier.

The start-up was born out of a PHD masters project by Ben Chen at the University of Science and Technology in Hong Kong in 2008. However from inception to the start of 2011, Miniweb was only a part-time gig as Ben worked at Microsoft in America, where he was in the team that developed IE9 and forming the standard for HTML5. In 2011 Ben returned to Hong Kong to work full time on the Miniweb after scoring a partnership with 3 Hutchison Telecommunications, the largest carrier in Hong Kong.

Originally both from China, Miranda and Ben met each other as part of the Start-up Leadership Program in Hong Kong.

Webnova is currently angel funded and has a 7 person team. Given their plans for expansion, they are also looking to recruit people in business, technology and design.

You can download it here:

Jason Lim

Jason is an Australian born Chinese living in Beijing, specializing in entrepreneurship, start-ups and the investment eco-system in China, especially in the tech and social area.

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