Valentine's day is upon us, and like many other special days throughout the year a pesky aspect of the internet rears it's head again: e-cards.
For one thing, spammers jump on the opportunity and send around intriguing e-card announcements of the form "somebody sent you an e-card" or "n people want to meet you on network x". It's a good idea to never click on those links in emails, as most likely they'll just link to a scam.
So that is one reason not to send e-cards: it endangers the recipient, because he is getting used to clicking on e-card links, which might be hazardous. The better e-card sites are capable of including the senders name in the email ("xyz sent you an e-card"), but even that is no guarantee that the e-card is legitimate. It is easy to harvest the names of a person's friends from various social networks (Facebook and others) and simply pretend to send e-cards in their name.
One way to at least send a reasonably safe e-card would be to use a very well known and trustworthy company, like Yahoo, Google or Amazon (and that list is probably the complete list, I can't think of any other well known sites). But even then it is still rude: by sending somebody an e-card, you are giving away that person's private information, namely their email-address. Chances are high that in addition to your lovingly selected e-card, that person will also receive a never ending amount of spam mails for the rest of their lives.
If you absolutely want to send a greeting card by mail, just attach a regular JPEG image to an email you sent from your normal email program. Otherwise, why not invest in a real postcard? I know there are a lot of funny flash movies available for special occasions, but really JPEG is preferred. The chances for security holes in JPEG viewers are very small (although not impossible), and the same can not be said for most other formats like flash or Power Point.
That said, I admit that the occasional e-card from a friend has given me a warm fuzzy feeling. I don't really expect most people to understand the issues with e-cards, or with giving my email address to a 3rd party. But I'd prefer it if they did, hence this article.