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An electronic card (e-card) is a special occasion, greeting or post card created and customized within a website and sent through the Internet to the recipient. Customizations may include a wide variety of backgrounds and text fonts including some as cursive writing, graphic images, cartoon-style animations (proprietary to Adobe), video and sometimes even music.
This term is also known as ecard, icard, i-card, digital postcard, cyber greeting card or digital greeting card.
Virtual cards were first started by Judith Donath at MIT Media Lab in 1994 and were created by the website called The Electronic Postcard. Over the first few weeks, dozens of cards were sent out each week. The first summer resulted in up to 2,000 cards per day. And the 1995/1996 Christmas season saw days where up to 19,000 cards were sent. By late spring of 1997, a total of 1.7 million were electronically distributed. That same year a paper greeting card company called Blue Mountain began creating virtual cards. The company was sold to Excite@Home in 1999 for $780 million. The Cable News Network and Business 2.0 cited this as evidence of the beginning of the so-called dot-com bubble. After a bankruptcy by Excite@Home, Blue Mountain was sold to American Greetings for $35 million. Today among many others, Blue Mountain remains as a significant, large website devoted mostly to virtual cards.
Virtual card recipients are often sent an email with a link to a website where the card was created. Then the card may be viewed, played, copied, printed, etc. Such websites invariably include banner ads and others selling a variety of products. Some websites use virtual cards to market and draw attention to their other products and services, which may be their main product or service. The recipient is offered the opportunity to send their own customized cards to friends, family, etc. using their desktop machines, mobile devices and phones.
Advantages of virtual cards include the ease of sending them to many recipients, being environmentally friendly compared to paper/hard copy cards and the versatile and highly customizable content.