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.
Flash animated greeting cards can include interactivity, for example, asking the viewer to choose a picture to animate; however, most Flash e-cards are designed to convey the sentiment of the sender through simple observation.
Flash animated cards are offered today by almost all major e-card publishers and are consequently the most common format used.
Eventually e-cards were offered that could be sent to mobile devices and phones. Mobile e-cards or 'Mcards' as they are more commonly known were originally created by a UK company called Sharpcards Ltd in 2004. e-cards for mobile devices may delivered via mobile phone networks WAP sites then are downloaded to the mobile then it is sent via MMS straight the recipients handset.
In October 1999, Excite@Home bought the web site Blue Mountain Arts (which operate bluemountain.com, an e-Card site) for $780M (which represent a price of $71 per unique monthly user). The transaction has been referenced by CNN and Business 2.0 as evidence of the Dot-com bubble. On September 13, 2001, three weeks before filing for bankruptcy on October 1, 2001, Excite@Home sold BlueMountain.com to American Greetings for $35M, or $3.23 per unique monthly user. The web site BlueMountain.com remains a large web site, primarily focused on e-cards. In June 2008, JustAnotherDotCom.com purchased the free e-card site Greeting-cards.com and added it to their own greeting card site, which made them one of the largest e-card sites in the world.
Originally, most e-cards were free, by virtue of being sponsored by advertising. While free greeting cards are still the most prevalent and popular, some sites charge for either all e-cards or special premium e-cards. Others charge an annual membership which enables members to send cards for the duration of the membership.
Since many e-card companies are privy to the e-mail address of the recipient and often also the sender, and whether the recipient reads the card, spammers can use e-cards for finding active e-mail addresses.
Sending an e-card to a given recipient invariably involves giving that recipient's email address to the e-card service – a third party. As with other third-party email services (such as mailing-list companies), the operator has the chance to misuse this address. One example of misuse is if the e-card service sends advertisements to the recipient's address. Under anti-spam rules used by major ISPs, such advertisements would be spam, since the recipient never asked ("opted in") to receive them. The e-card sender as well as the service could be held responsible for the act of spamming, since while the service sent the spam, the e-card sender provided the address.
In some cases, it may be illegal for an organization or business to use an e-card service to send greetings to its customers. For instance, data privacy laws may forbid a business from disclosing information about customers to a third party – including names and email addresses.