Cosmetic changes are, well, cosmetic, but a lot of people like them as a way to add some flair to their machines. Many had been pestering Google to add themes support even though Chrome employs a Spartan user interface without much acreage for artistry. Last week's developer version of Chrome added a "Get themes" button in the Options dialog box, and now Google has flipped the switch to activate the Web page that button points to.
The collection of themes includes Legal Pad, Star Gazing, Transparent (it's not, on my Windows XP machine), Dots, and Pencil Sketch. One monochromatic theme called Minimal downloads nearly instantly, but Grass, at 1.3MB, takes more time.
Why so large? Themes can come with a background image that shows on Chrome's new-tab page that offers a much greater chance for expressiveness, especially since that page is the default when Chrome launches. That could help Google with its attempt to recruit artists to supply their own themes, as some have done with the iGoogle customizable home page.
Mozilla has its own skinning technology in the works, a plug-in called Personas that launched on Mozilla Labs in March. That head start, coupled with its vastly larger and more engaged external audience, gives it a big lead over Chrome when it comes to getting gussied up.
Mozilla Labs announced Monday that Firefox now has 20,000 Personas, with 10,000 of them arriving in the last 10 weeks.