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A vCard is an electronic business (or personal) card and also the name of an industry specification for the kind of communication exchange that is done on business or personal cards. You may have seen a vCard attached to an e-mail note someone has sent you. Because vCard is a published industry specification, software application developers can create programs that process vCards by letting you view them, or drag-and-drop them to an address book or some other application. vCards can include images and sound as well as text.

vCard was developed by a consortium founded by Apple, AT&T, IBM, and Siemens, which turned the specification over to an industry group, the Internet Mail Consortium (IMC) in 1996. The vCard specification makes use of the "person" object defined by the CCITT X.500 Series Recommendation for Directory Services and can be considered an extension of it. A vCard contains a name, address information, date and time, and optionally photographs, company logos, sound clips, and geo-positioning information.

To open (look at) a vCard that someone has attached to an e-mail note, your e-mail program needs to support vCards and not all such programs do yet. However, if you have an online address book or personal information manager that supports vCards, you can move it to that program for viewing or for addition to that program's database. (If you can't open a vCard you've received, remember that its information may be repeated elsewhere in the note. It's basically just a business card.)

A promising future use of a vCard will be as a way to quickly fill in application forms on the Web. Just drag-and-drop your own vCard to the form and you won't have so many blanks to fill in. For software developers, there is a Personal Data Interchange (PDI) Software Development Kit (SDK). The specification is located at the Internet Mail Consortium's Web site where you can also find out about vCalendar , a similar exchange standard for personal time scheduling.

This was last updated in April 2005

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