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eCards: When You Care Enough

BY: Christopher Mahar | Dec 11, 2018

When was the last time you poked your friend? As we are right in the midst of the holiday season, a time that tends to dredge up fraught memories of the sometimes complicated connections we have with family and friends, it's a good time to celebrate Electronic Greeting Day. This is a day we recognize the weird medium of electronic communication, and especially the many ways it allows us to say, "Hey, I'm acknowledging our relationship. Ball's in your court now".

Zazzle postcard featured on Groupon Coupons blog The original electric greeting card? You can get this postcard of Nikola Tesla and his invention on Zazzle.

The Electric Postcard

In 1994, way back in the dawn of the internet, a doctoral candidate at MIT named Judith Donath started a site called The Electric Postcard. In her thesis, she described the way the site worked: "On the postcard site there are a number of images (famous paintings, urban photographs, drawings of insects, etc.). You choose an image, write a message, fill in the recipient's email address, and send it off. The recipient is automatically notified, by email, that [a] card awaits. Upon going to the site and giving the claim number to the postmaster, the recipient is presented with a page showing the chosen picture and the message." From humble beginnings, an industry was born. These days there're a bunch of sites that will perform the same service in a more streamlined form. Choose from sentiments like "Happy Birthday", "Congratulations", or "Get Well", and send your message accompanied by simple animation and music.

The Poke

The spiritual ancestor of the poke button though is JibJab. On this site you can upload an image of your face or the face of others, and JibJab will paste them into a music video. Send this video to your friend and let them figure out what you're trying to say. What does it mean when someone you went to high school with sends you the "Whip It" video, where Devo now is made up of you and him and the other three member of your old AV club? The important thing is that he was thinking of you. Now what do you think it means that our intern Skip sent us this video with his cat?

JibJab Despacito on Groupon Coupons Screencap of intern Skip's cat in "Despacito", courtesy of JibJab