The CEO of online electronics retailer Kogan has backed away from claims that Bing and Yahoo! deliberately removed his website from their search engines as punishment for criticising Internet Explorer 7.
Kogan announced last month that it would tax people who used IE7 to make a purchase on their website in a bid to get them to upgrade their browsers.
The company then revealed last night that their website had stopped appearing in organic search results on the Microsoft-owned search engines Bing and Yahoo!
"Two days after the IE 7 tax is when we stopped getting traffic at all from Bing and Yahoo!," said CEO Ruslan Kogan in an interview with Fairfax, the publisher of this article.
Indeed, a Bing or Yahoo! search returns listings for Kogan's Facebook and Twitter pages, but no link to the official website, kogan.com.
Initially there were accusations of censorship and selectiveness. "This sort of censorship (or glitch) is quite strange given Kogan were not attacking Microsoft," said Marija Bijelic from Click PR, which represents Kogan.
"Do you think this is just a glitch from Microsoft, or is there something more at play here?" added Kogan on a blog post on his website. "We hope Microsoft were not too offended by what we did with the IE7 tax and this is just a temporary glitch."
But in somewhat of a backflip, he has today stopped short of accusing the tech giant of tampering with its search engine results, even defending them.
"I'm sure it's a bug or something from their end," he said. "I can't see a massive professional company like Microsoft choosing to censor search results because obviously it'd affect how people view their search engine."
Microsoft was singing a similar tune. "We do not manually alter search results," said the company in a statement made to Fairfax. "The ranking of our results is done in [an] automated manner through our algorithm which can sometimes lead to unexpected results."
"As long as retailers follow Microsoft adCenter terms and conditions, then their results will go through the same automated manner," said the company.
Comment was sought from Microsoft as to whether it believed Kogan breached its search engine guidelines. A reply had not been received at the time this article was initially published.
Kogan claimed that Microsoft also failed to reply to queries about his website's absence from their search listings.
"We did contact Microsoft eight days ago and we even showed them a graph showing the drop off of the traffic from our site, and we have had not had a response."
Kogan announced in June that it would be imposing a 6.8 per cent tax on users who used IE7 to purchase their products.
"It costs the internet community a lot of money to develop for antiquated browsers," said Kogan. "Avoid the tax, use a better browser"
Kogan claimed that the "extremely old browser" was costing the internet economy millions of dollars and web developers hours of time.
"By taking these measures, we are doing our bit," said Kogan.