MyHeritage powers Israel Doppelganger Week

MyHeritage CEO Gilad Japhet: MyCeleb app's use in Israel jumped from a few hundred downloads to 100,000, and the number of pictures reached 920,000.

A marginal mobile appf Israeli family tree, genealogy and family history company MyHeritage Ltd. has become a great hit for Doppleganger Week, since it arrived in Israel.

MyHeritage acquired facial recognition software to enable its users to search for relatives by facial features. The company decided that the technology could have an amusing side as a way for finding look-alike celebrities. The late entry of Doppelganger Week to Israel sent traffic on MyHeritage's local site soaring. MyHeritage CEO Gilad Japhet says that the company's iPhone app is number one at app stores in the free apps category, followed by the company's MyCeleb app, another facial recognition feature. The two apps are number four for iPad apps in Israel.

Japhet says that MyCeleb app's use figures in Israel are soaring. From a few hundred downloads and a few thousand pictures, by mid-week, the number of downloads reached 100,000 and the number of pictures reached 920,000. There were 105,000 app downloads and over 960,000 downloads of pictures in three days. At the peak on Monday, there was one app and 36 picture downloads every second.

The viral trend is even greater, because not every surfer uses MyHeritage, which is not responsible for Doppelganger week, even though the company offers the feature.

"Doppelganger Week was a great story in the US in 2010, but the trend was not repeated in 2011 and 2012. This year, we're seeing a big jump almost only in Israel," Japhet told "Globes". "Our luck is that we spotted Doppelganger Week right at the beginning, and it went viral. We discovered it quite by accident, and within hours it picked up, and the overload from users all across the US crashed our site."

"It first looked like an attack, but we saw that the demand was only for our MyCeleb feature. Monitoring Twitter tweets, we realized that it was about Doppelganger Week and we rushed to acquire the domain name"

Japhet says that although the event was supposed to only last a week, during which users would exchange pictures of their profiles on Facebook with pictures of look-alike celebrities, the event continued for six weeks. The viral wave did not spread beyond the US, however, and subsequent waves were much smaller.

Japhet attributes the success of Doppelganger Week in Israel to the country's admiration of celebrities and people's wish to be famous or at least look as if they are. He admits that MyHeritage sees no financial value in the huge traffic of the past few days. "There is no direct value from the buzz and links people provide to MyHeritage. There is no profit in this. We also don’t intend to charge for use of the feature or create a financial model for it, especially for an unexpected fad that lasts one week a year."

Japhet adds, "We're pleased to help people who cannot wait to see which celebrity they resemble, but this is not part of our core businesses as a company engaged in family histories."

Japhet says that MyHeritage has decided to remove the MyCeleb feature from its website, and only allow access via the smartphone app, to avoid affecting access by the company's regular users to their family trees on the website. "We're great believers in focusing on our core businesses, and not to harm them, especially since users can still enjoy the facial recognition feature via the application."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on February 6, 2013

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2013

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