When I am traveling around the Web, I am often curious about the technology of the site I am visiting as much as anything. It is probably a logical extension about the provenance of the content that I am viewing, a typical librarian mindset about knowing the author or publisher of content!
I use Builtwith.com to give me a broad view of the technology running a particular Web site. Need to know what Web content management system it is running? Builtwith will tell you. It will also tell you what analytics tool it is using, if the tool is embedded in the site. This is what I used when I was looking at other news sites and their content systems.
Sometimes a site will block access to tools like Builtwith. I ran into this recently when I was trying to determine what server the site was running. Sometimes you can just force a 404 error, by turning a page extension (contact-us.html) into something that’s wrong (contact-us.lkth). Some sites will not have proper 404 error pages, and will spit back the server that they are running on. The site I was looking at didn’t return a 404 page but showed instead a weird system error. Not surprising, since it was a Java Web server. I was able to copy the code, search Google, and confirm that I was looking at an IBM Websphere server.
I use Domaintools.com to find out information without visiting a site. I was recently doing IP address lookups and they have a good WHOIS tool. They can also show you screenshots, and if you pay for additional services, they can give you a broader report on each site you’re investigating. Just like a simple domain lookup atBetterwhois.com, it will give you contact information for the site owner and administrative and technical contacts, if they haven’t hidden them behind a privacy screen. If they have, that makes me question the reliability of their site unless there is some obvious good reason to do so.