AlltheWeb.com searches for skin

AlltheWeb.com is adding a feature that allows users to create and share their own skins to change the appearance of the Internet search engine.

Oslo-based Fast Search & Transfer ASA, the company behind AlltheWeb.com, hopes the new feature will spawn a trend that will have users swapping skins and setting up Web sites hosting skins, much like the skin cult surrounding WinAmp, the popular audio player.

"This is a chance to have fun," said Frode Lundgren, software engineering manager at Fast Search & Transfer. "It is very much the same as the idea behind WinAmp and all those other applications with skins."

The skin tool, called AlltheWeb Alchemist, went online on Wednesday.

Users interested in creating a skin can download a sample CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) file from AlltheWeb.com and edit that. When done, the user needs to find a place to host the style sheet and instruct AlltheWeb.com to use that style sheet when the search engine is accessed, said Lundgren.

Editing the style sheet and creating a skin that itself shows some skin or gives the search engine the look of a Heineken coaster, for example, will take about a day, Lundgren said.

"Most people familiar with HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and the Web in general would be able to do this in a day. Joe home user would not be able to do this in a day and that is not the target group here," said Lundgren, adding that some of the WinAmp skin creators sweat on a skin for weeks.

"Our first goal is to appeal to the techies, who are our users," said Jami Axelrod, senior marketing manager of AlltheWeb.

Alchemist is not all about fun, it can also be practical, Lundgren noted. A user could create a skin to make AlltheWeb.com easier to use on a small screen on a personal digital assistant (PDA) or to build a skin for those with a visual handicap, he said.

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