While it obviously was not the smartest way to get people to share information about Microsoft's Japan disaster support page, the reaction actually shows what they were trying to achieve. Twitter needs some motivation to get a tweet to go viral or be passed around by a large number of users.
Microsoft wanted to get as many people as possible sending out their support page information - a page dedicated to helping people seeking information about the earthquake and tsunami. In these hard economic times, Microsoft thought they would motivate people's charity by offering to make a dollar donation for every retweet of their offer. "How can you #SupportJapan -- http://binged.it/fEh7iT. For every retweet, bing will give $1 to Japan quake victims, up to $100K."
Immediately following the tweet the backlash started and no doubt the comedy shows will be talking about this today.
What Microsoft wanted to do was use the power of Twitter to spread information about their support page. The $100,000 would have gotten them millions of views potentially - not to their product pages as many suggested on Twitter. Was the idea not well thought out - yes. But when comedian Michael Ian Black pushed it out to his million plus followers, there was no turning back the impact.
Microsoft tried to cut it off - making the donation and apologizing. "We apologize the tweet was negatively perceived. Intent was to provide an easy way for people to help Japan. We have donated $100K." their response read.
But the backlash has been going for two days now. Perhaps people it is time to move on and actually draw attention back to the tragedy. But it reflects another aspect of Twitter - it is easier to be clever and negative than understanding and supportive. Not many of the responses have linked to any alternative support sites, they are more interested in having a shot and showing how clever they are.
While Microsoft has been a loser in this, the bigger loss has been support for the actual tragedy.