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Users frown on site's customized IE 5

As Internet Explorer version 5.0 enjoys record downloads, one of the browser's chief selling points has become the source of customer complaints at a popular download site.

As Internet Explorer version 5.0 enjoys record downloads, one of the browser's chief selling points has become the source of customer complaints at a popular download site.

One of IE 5's attributes--which Microsoft has been touting heavily--is the degree to which content and download sites can customize it. The feature, which lets sites alter the browser's look or add content references, has been the linchpin of Microsoft's strategy of enticing some of the most highly trafficked Web sites to promote IE to their users.

Microsoft has so far signed on AltaVista, Excite, Lycos, and other Web portals to offer these customized browsers.

Microsoft may be successful in attracting sites to offer branded versions. But Canadian site The Ultimate Collection Of Winsock Software (TUCOWS) got into hot water with its customers over customization--and has since revised its version of IE 5.

Users complained when they found the browser they downloaded from TUCOWS was customized with TUCOWS labeling, a Hotbot icon, and a number of other content references, including links and a TUCOWS start page.

TUCOWS has since posted instructions for removing the customization features.

But not soon enough, as one irate user has already set up his own Web page devoted to "debranding" IE 5.

TUCOWS removed the HotBot icon altogether. It was placed there under a promotional deal with the Wired Digital property, but removing it did not affect the deal, according to TUCOWS. Meanwhile, its presence seemed to have stirred much of the resentment among TUCOWS users.

"People went crazy over that," said TUCOWS spokesperson Elliot Noss.

IE 5 downloaders have revolted over the TUCOWS customization issue in other forums as well.

"I've gotten tons of mail from people letting me know how frustrated they were with the TUCOWS version of the browser," said Andy Brown, a writer with PC enthusiast Web site Ars Technica. "The people who wrote in were nothing short of ticked off. They're asking, just because you downloaded the software from this particular site, should it turn into a huge billboard for that site?"

For its part, Microsoft said that with the possible exception of TUCOWS, download sites were giving users the option of downloading standard or customized versions of the browser.

"What we recommend is that sites specify a customized and a generic version of the browser," said Windows product manager Mike Nichols.

Microsoft reports that IE 5 downloads are at record highs, with more than 1 million downloads so far.