A number of years ago, I read a book by William Gibson Called Idoru (Gibson’s the guy who coined the term “cyberspace” in 1984 and is the only scifi I read) about… well, the story of a missing rock star and the fan sent to find him land them both in intrigue doesn’t really matter. What really struck me was this idea that the protagonist had a personal computer.

Not like the Dell I have at home or the Macs that run rampent in our office, but a rectangle the size of a large paperback book that was handmade by… someone. The idea was that the shell was individual because the pieces inside were commodities: the hard drive and memory were the same as everyone else’s, but that computer was personal because she hand it built in such a way that it was individual to her.

I mean, yeah that Mac is pretty (so pretty…) and there are some pretty cool and slick looking laptops that would rock the office, but… is it personalized? Is it me? If there are 100,000 in various shelves at Best Buy and Circuit City and Target, then is it really mine?

Which brings me to the place where things can get truly personal: the web. (Wow, that sounds like the intro to something you might want to avert your eyes from, right? Don’t worry, this will be fine.)

Many of you use Gmail (I know I do… I have three accounts, not counting a few for work). And it’s excellent. Except for one thing: it’s kinda ugly:

What if you could make it look like this:


(Gmail2)

Or this:


(Gmail 2 Fe)

Or this:


(BurnOmania Style III)

Using a tool like Stylish you can make your favorite pages look however you want them to. (Yes, you’ll need to be using the newest version of FireFox 3, but you should be already… trust me.) There’s a whole community devoted to people who want the Facebook and MySpace and Amazon and Wikipedia to look a certain way, even if it only their computer. They post their styles for you to use and you can make your Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail like theirs do. They are making their browsing personalized. They are making it their own.

How is this possible? Because on the modern web, the content (the stuff you really care about) is separate from the design (the stuff that isn’t “important” but can make you like or dislike a site in a split second). This has been going on for a while, but is starting to become a huge deal. Well, maybe making my Gmail cool looking and a little easier to read isn’t a big deal, but what if you could take content from multiple web sites and mash them together to make something your own?

Well, I’ll show you how that’s becoming a very common occurrence next week.