Valentine's Day: Beyond the E-CardElectronic greetings expand to let you send your last-minute love in words, song, or video.
Tom Spring, PCWorld.com
The Web plays a crucial role for long-distance and last-minute lovebirds short on time and keen on convenience. And this year, virtual Valentines come in a variety of media flavors to suit any dilatory lover's fancy.
An estimated 33.5 million Internet users in the United States will e-mail their sweetheart today, according to Media Metrix. Valentine's Day ranks second in electronic-card activity behind December holidays. Electronic-greetings site BlueMountain.com expects to send 20 million greetings today alone.
But if you want to make a gesture that goes beyond the 30 seconds it takes to whip together an electronic card, the technology world is serving up some new high-tech twists for your heartfelt emotions.
Sing Your Love
While the computer probably won't replace Cupid anytime soon as the symbol of romance, Sonymusic.com can help you get into the Valentine's Day spirit with MusicGrams. Sonymusic.com lets you e-mail your loved one love ballads from your favorite Sony recording artist, be it Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, Jennifer Lopez, or Frank Sinatra.
Hotbar.com is positioning its free software plug-in as an alternative to run-of-the-mill e-cards. The plug-in allows you to personalize a Web browser with custom graphics that appear on top of a browser interface. You can choose from its collection of Valentine's Day skins, or you can create effects using your own pictures and artwork. Once you've created your masterpiece, you simply e-mail it to your mate. It can be easily added and removed from the recipient's browser.
If you're musical at heart, you might want to woo your partner with a link to serenades at Live365 or MP3.com. Both sites let you set a romantic tone with Valentine-themed streaming-audio soundtracks. Live365 offers three feeds: Red for the passionate, Blue for the reflective, and Black for the lovelorn, featuring songs such as "Love Stinks."
Multimedia Messages, Gifts, and Dating
For wanna-be wordsmiths who lack creative inspiration, the time-honored Cyrano Server is the unimaginative's best friend. This site lets you create a Mad Lib-style Valentine card that you can e-mail to your partner. Simply plug-in a couple superlatives here, a verb or two there, and the recipient's name, and you're done.
If your mate is blessed with a high-bandwidth Net connection, VideoGreetings.com offers an alternative to the static e-card. At this site you can choose from over a dozen video clips from sources including America's Funniest Home Videos. Find the clip that speaks your heart, and you can e-mail the link to your loved one.
Besides greetings, there's also a host of Web shops that'll sell you that last-minute gift to brighten your sweetheart's day.
For those reconsidering their Valentine's Day commitment, there's always online dating. According to Internet research firm Yankelovich Partners, in 1999 1 out of 12 single adults in the United States used an online dating service. By the end of 2001, 1 in 5 singles will find a date online.
Of course, cyber-Valentines aside, there's nothing that makes Cupid's arrow fly quite like a good box of chocolates and a dozen long-stemmed roses.