Hotbar.com brings "skins" to Internet Explorer

Tel Aviv-based Internet start-up Hotbar.com has launched a Web site that offers a range of 700 skins for Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser.

Tel Aviv-based Internet start-up Hotbar.com has launched a Web site that offers skins for Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser.

Skins are graphical overlays for applications that don't change the way an application performs, but the way it looks on the screen. This allows users to customise their browser by adding any design they want to that plain-looking gray area surrounding the current URL on Explorer.

Users can use the 700 skins currently on its site, or design their own skins using the BMP (bitmap) image format, said Hotbar's co-founder Oren Dobronsky in an interview today. Hotbar plans to hold contests with prizes for the best designed skins in the future.

Visitors to the site can also send "e-card" skins to other users. Instead of sending friends a holiday greeting card through e-mail, they can send them a holiday skin for their browsers. That function works only with Internet Explorer now, but Hotbar plans to launch all of its services for Netscape Communications Corp.'s Navigator in two to three months, Dobronsky said.

When the Hotbar skin is installed, a row of four customised buttons is launched below the location bar. The buttons include one allowing the user to change skins and access other pages on the Hotbar site, another linking the user to the top 10 sites in various categories, the e-cards button, and the services button. More buttons are planned for the future.

The Top 10 button is a "portable portal," Dobronsky said. It contains 2,500 different links, divided into 250 top 10 lists. "The lists are regularly updated," he said, "If a site becomes better, the list is changed," he added. The list can also be customised to specific regions, he added.

The services button has two features, a "fun" button, which randomly selects a skin for the browser and sends the user to a random Web site, and a translation button, which uses technology from Altavista to translate any Web page into 25 languages.

The company is currently working on adding a "guide button," which will allow content providers to make information available to users simply by clicking on the button. Instead of having to visit a sports site to find the latest scores, users simply click a button on your browser to view them.

Hotbar, in Tel Aviv, can be reached at +972 3 5291007, or on the Web at http://www.hotbar.com/.

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