Twins or Not? Microsoft keeps pushing Azure via simple viral sites

Having spent some time playing with Microsoft’s new Twins or Not tool, I’ll admit–it’s addictive.  The hilarity of the face recognition results, along with the viral nature of the app, will surely propel the new site to the top of Alexa ranks, which is exactly what happened to Microsoft’s previous app called How old am I or something of that nature.  In fact, Mat Velloso, the Microsoft developer responsible for the app, just reported via Twitter that Twins or Not has reached one million visitors after about a week in the wild.

A million visitors is nothing to sneeze at, even for Microsoft, but the key takeaway point here is that Microsoft’s “money site” (to borrow a term from Internet marketers), is not a silly face recognition or age detection app.  The money site here, of course, is Azure cloud services, because guess what?  Both viral sites run on Microsoft’s free APIs available to all Azure customers.

That’s right, both sites are open source and anyone can clone them on their own domain.  Seems like a good use of viral marketing to promote a service, but how likely is it that casual users sign up for Azure’s premium plan?  A free plan limits FaceAPI users to 20 transactions per minute and 5000 transactions per month.  That’s 167 visitors a day if you’re counting–far from sufficient to host a viral app.

I really don’t think Microsoft is targeting the public cloud to the right crowd here.  Big publishers are not likely to become Azure customers just to use a face API, and for smaller guys the economics just don’t add up.  Fire up an AdSense site powered by this technology, and you probably won’t make enough money to pay for your monthly Azure subscription.  But the app is really fun, I’ll give them that.