Many viruses express small hydrophobic membrane proteins. These proteins are often referred to as viroporins because they exhibit ion channel activity. However, the channel activity has not been definitively associated with a biological function in all cases. More generally, protein-protein and protein-phospholipid interactions have been associated with specific biological activities of these proteins. As research has progressed there is a decreased emphasis on potential roles of the channel activity, and increased research on multiple other biological functions. This being the case, it may be more appropriate to refer to them as 'viral membrane-spanning miniproteins'. Structural studies are illustrated with Vpu from HIV-1 and p7 from HCV.