Log on for all singing, dancing Christmas cards

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The Independent Online
As if you didn't have enough to do with writing and posting all those Christmas cards, you're now going to have to start drawing up lists of friends and relatives who get the all-singing, all-dancing version via the Internet. The e-mail Christmas card has arrived and it's not your plain little black-on-white text message. The new version comes via the world-wide web and, if you so desire, can play an assortment of tunes from "Jingle Bells" to "Joy to the World" as well as having animated graphics of dancing snowmen or laughing Santas.

The cards are available at various sites on the Internet, and all you have to do is point your computer in the right direction and off you go.

The popularity of electronic cards has been growing over the past few years. Ben Knox, managing director of Direct Connection, an Internet service provider, says there has been a noticeable increase in e-mail traffic across the Internet at this time of the year.

"Over the past three years we have noticed an increase in Internet traffic of about 20 per cent in the two weeks leading up to Christmas," he said. "Although we have no way of knowing, my guess is that this is due to people realising they have missed the posting dates for Christmas and so sending e-mail Christmas cards, children e-mailing Santa and people sending junk mail, like the e-mail snowballs which seemed to be in vogue last year."

Sending the basic version of an e-mail Christmas card involves logging on to a website which offers the festive service. You then pick a picture, select a suitable verse and add your own short message. After entering the recipient's e-mail address, all that is left to do is to sign and send it.

The actual "posting" of the card involves the operator of an Internet website sending an e-mail to the recipient and notifying them there is a card waiting on the website for them. They then log on and see the card, and all free of charge.

If you've happened to pick one of the advanced options, the card may well play a tune or have an animated scene, rather than the plain seasonal pictures typical of conventional Christmas cards.

The obvious advantage to these cards are they are a bit more lively than traditional cards - the drawback being that, unless you have a colour printer, the only way they'll ever go on your mantelpiece is if you've got one wide enough to hold a PC.