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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Internet

Email sends the very best

More people are sending electronic holiday greetings instead of licking envelopes and stamps this holiday season.

More people are sending electronic holiday greetings instead of licking envelopes and stamps, according to a survey released this week by Claris Home Page.

The survey results are another example of how the Internet is changing the way people communicate. Electronic postcards have long been a popular diversion for Net users, but with giants like Hallmark moving on the Web, e-greetings are going mainstream.

Claris did two studies, surveying almost 2,000 people who were both computer owners and non-owners. More than half of recipients said they send "far fewer" holiday cards than their parents. And 43 percent said they will send holiday greetings over the Net by the year 2000.

The people behind Claris Home Page, a Web-authoring software company, recognized a trend, not only in the number of personal homepages on the Web, but how people were using and planning to use their pages.

Bob Moriarty, customer marketing manager for Claris Home Page, said surprisingly the computer and non-computer owners surveyed indicated, almost equally, that they would increasingly use the Internet to send and create holiday cards in the near future.

"What's really popular now is to send a holiday news letter, that summarizes everything that happened over the year," he said. "That's something that the Web is extremely optimized for. You can take videos, text, photos of your kids and add them to your Web page."

Claris created an online Valentine's message site last February that was overwhelmingly popular. Moriarty thinks greeting card companies will try to compete with companies like Claris by providing card templates that users can download for a price.

Some freebie electronic card Web sites, already let visitors use multimedia to send holiday messages.

Cooper Vertz, is a partner in Infobahn Austin, a firm that creates greeting cards Web sites, Go Greet and Celebrate the Holidays in Texas. He said people like electronic cards because they're easy to create, send, and more important, they're free.

He launched a Christmas season card site yesterday and said his hits have already boomed in one day. His success last Valentine's Day is proof people are sending e-cards.

"We got a 100,000 hits on Valentine's Day," he said.

The independent greeting merchants aren?t the only ones jumping on the Net. The mother of sentimental greetings, Hallmark Cards, threw its weight around the e-greetings market this year with Hallmark Connections.

Hallmark also partnered with Microsoft for the September release of Greetings Workshop, a home desktop-publishing software program that lets users make cards, invitations, banners, calendars, and announcements.

Hallmark's Web site has been live since November 15, and spokesperson Ryan Hayter said the most popular features are e-greetings and other holiday season content.

"In that last two weeks, we've had 90,000 to 115,000 visitors," he said. "Hallmark is in the business of helping people communicate and e-greetings are meeting yet another need. We don't see it as competing with traditional cards."

Hallmark is still banking on hard-copy cards to bring in its profits. Its traditional-sized cards cost from under $1 to $5, compared to the free e-greetings. However, Hallmark hasn?t decided whether it will charge for e-greetings in the future, Hayter said.

Other online greeting sites include Polaroid Digital Greeting Cards, Cyber Greeting Collection, and Internet Card Central.