Google Gets Artsy With Personalized Home-Page 'Skins'

Google Inc.'s once-austere Web site is turning into an eclectic art gallery.

Hoping to spur more customization of its home page, the Internet search leader has unveiled a lineup of colorful graphics dreamed up by a mix of creative souls, ranging from fashion designer Oscar de la Renta to the rock group Coldplay.

The panoramic decorations, known as "skins," can be draped around Google's search box if a user has a personal login.

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The custom home page, known as "iGoogle," is the company's fastest growing service along with e-mail. Google won't specific how many people use iGoogle, but says the number is in the millions.

Nearly 70 prominent artists from 17 countries contributed the new designs, which include the work of children's photographer Anne Geddes and the cartoon editor of The New Yorker, Robert Mankoff.

Mountain View-based Google even elicited a contribution from fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, whose husband Barry Diller runs the corporate parent of a rival search engine,

Google began to add more bells and whistles to its famously plain home page nearly three years ago when it offered its users the option to include stock quotes, weather forecasts and other features.

Looking for more pizazz, Google last year introduced its first set of skins, which were internally developed and consisted of mostly simple landscapes.

Google began to accept more elaborate drawings from all comers.

The emphasis on graphics illustrates Google's evolution from a once-pure Internet search engine into an all-purpose Web site that offers e-mail, video, news, photo sharing, instant messaging, shopping and mapping services.