The Technological Evolution of E-Cards

An overview of how the emergence of new technologies have helped shaped different forms of e-cards

The digital revolution of the mid 20th century set in motion a paradigm shift in human history. It brought about a transition of analog devices to digital devices which forever changed the way we would interact with the world. One of these ways is greetings – enter e-greetings or ecards.

Claude Shannon, a Bell Labs mathematician credited for initiating this transition in 1948, showed how digital technology could allow one to make copies that can be mass produced without incurring any damage to the information contained in the original technology. Little did he know that his invention would pave the way for the development of digital applications that would radically alter the way we would relate with our family and friends. One such development is the phenomenon of e-cards.

Brief overview

E-cards, or electronic-postcards, were first developed in 1994 by then MIT researcher Judith Donath. It served to share greetings on special occasions where an e-card created on the website would be sent via a link to the recipient. Upon opening the link, the recipient would be able to view the e-card which often included animations with a text greeting for the special occasion. This phenomenon was a significant transition from the times of our grandparents where handwritten letters had to be sent by post to bridge long-distance relationships.

ecard

Additions to e-card technology

At first, the technology of e-cards was mainly limited to choosing a specific animated video or image and customizing the text on it according to the occasion. With time, publishing and design companies made their own additions to the initial templates and source code and contributed largely to e-cards becoming mainstream. Then came Flash, enabling the easy addition of 2D animations, enhancing recipient experience.

Other additions included new features introduced in the Netscape 3.0 browser that allowed companies such as Awesome Cards to become pioneers in directly emailable digital postcards. Users could send the e-card directly to the recipient instead of sending a link that would open at the website’s location.

Although e-cards caught immense interest, leading to more than 1.5 million being shared by 1997, the technology for sending an e-card was far slower than it was for sending an email.

Other technological changes

During the dot com bubble period, between 1997 and 2000, several internet companies crashed, including Blue Mountain in 2001. Over the following years, newer digital applications and platforms sparked other forms of e-cards. Here are some of the following.

Mcards

Advances in mobile phone technology allowed mobile users to create, customize and send their e-cards via MMS at the tips of their fingers. The company Mgreetings is credited for developing the first of mobile e-cards in 2003.

Video e-cards

Video e-cards allow users to personalize their greeting on a prerecorded video. A number of companies now offer free video cards that can be customized according to different occasions and sent to family and friends.

Face upload e-cards

Face upload e-cards allow users to insert their picture that can be cropped to fit certain templates and then embedded into an animation using multimedia software.

Other e-card applications

Newer e-cards have been developed to support a variety of platforms, including popular mobile operating systems, including iOS and Android, via the use of interactive games.

Therefore, the technological evolution of e-cards depends greatly on the rate of progress of newer applications and software platforms. As our social wants and needs become more digitally driven, internet and applications companies will find more creative ways to share our instinctual need for exchanging greetings and a laugh with others.

Do you prefer E-Cards or Electronic Postcards over the Traditional Paper-card?

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