An e-card is similar to a postcard or greeting card, with the primary difference being that it is created using digital media instead of paper or other traditional materials. E-cards are made available by publishers usually on various Internet sites, where they can be sent to a recipient, usually via e-mail. It also considered more environment friendly compared to traditional paper cards. E-card businesses are considered environmentally friendly because their carbon footprint is generally much lower compared to paper card companies and because paper is not used in the end product.
E-cards are digital "content", which makes them much more versatile than traditional greeting cards. For example unlike traditional greetings, e-cards can be easily sent to many people at once or extensively personalized by the sender. Conceivably they could be saved to any computer or electronic device or even viewed on a television set, however e-card digital content has not yet progressed as far as digital video or digital audio in terms of varied usage.
Typically an e-card sender chooses from an on-line catalog of e-cards made available on a publisher's web site. After selecting a card, the sender can personalize it to various degrees by adding a message, photo, or video. Finally the sender specifies the recipient's e-mail address and the web site delivers an e-mail message to the recipient on behalf of the sender.
Some e-cards are intended to be printed out rather than sent via e-mail; to most people, however, these are not considered e-cards, but are simply home-made greeting cards. The advantage to this over a traditional greeting sometimes can be cost savings, or sometimes simply the ability to "create" something for the recipient rather than choosing a fully completed paper card.
E-card technology has improved significantly since 1984, about the time of its inception. One technical aspect that has remained mostly constant is the delivery mechanism: the e-mail received by the recipient contains not the e-card itself, but an individually coded link back to the publisher's web site that displays the sender's card exactly as it was originally configured.
"Postcards" use static (non-moving) images. These were the first type of e-card in use. The recipient sees a single artistic image, accompanied by a personalized greeting message.
This type of e-card is based on two-dimensional vector animation controlled with a scripting language. The format is proprietary to Adobe; however, widespread usage of Adobe's software allows this type of card to be easily viewed on most of today's computers. The recipient sees an animated short usually 15–30 seconds in duration. The animation often appears to have a cartoon style due to the nature of the content, though some Flash creations can be quite sophisticated and realistic. A sound track which may contain speech or music usually accompanies the animation.
"Video ecards" use a combination of personalized text and video to convey the message to the recipient.