Postcrossing is an online project that allows its members to send and receive postcards from all over the world. The project's tag line is "send a postcard and receive a postcard back from a random person somewhere in the world!” Its members, also known as postcrossers, send postcards to other members and receive postcards back from other random postcrossers. Where the postcards come from is always a surprise. Postcrossing is the union of the words "postcard" and "crossing" and its origin "is loosely based on the Bookcrossing site". However, the "crossing" or exchange of postcards works in a different way. A member sends a postcard to another postcrosser and receives a postcard back from a random postcrosser. Exchanges between the same two members only occur once; although direct swaps between members happen, they are not part of the official happenings on the site. The project is completely free and anyone with an address can create an account. The postcards and postage fees to mail them are the responsibility of each user. By February 2018 Postcrossing had more than 719,000 members in 212 countries who had registered and exchanged over 45 million postcards that traveled over 229 billion kilometers. The highest concentration of Postcrossing members reside (in order) in Russia, Taiwan, China, the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Finland and the Czech Republic, each with over 20,000 members. Globally, most postcrossers reside in North America, Europe and East Asia. Of particular note, Postcrossing is popular in eastern European and former-Soviet states. As of January 2012, more than a quarter of the combined total of postcards were sent from Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine.
If a member sends a postcard he or she will receive at least one postcard back from a random postcrosser somewhere in the world.
The first step is to request to send a postcard. The website will display and send the member an email with the address of another postcrosser and a postcard ID (e.g.: US-787) which uniquely identifies that postcard in the system. The member then mails a postcard to that postcrosser and writes the postcard ID on it. The postcrosser receives the postcard and registers it using the postcard ID that is on the postcard. At this point, the sender is eligible to receive a postcard from a different postcrosser. Each member can write a profile text which will be visible to the postcrosser who requested an address. This profile can contain personal information about the recipient or postcard preferences.
Initially each member can have up to five postcards traveling at any time. Every time one of the sent postcards is registered, that postcrosser can request another address. The number of postcards allowed to travel at any single time goes up the more postcards a member sends and stops at 100.
The postcrossing system allows for the same two members to exchange postcards only once. By default, members will exchange postcards with countries other than their own. Users can decide to exchange postcards with other users in his or her own country. Users are allowed to untick the "send to repeated countries" option in their profile, but this does not guarantee no repetitions.
A small percentage of mailed postcards get lost during their travels, while others may arrive with the postcard ID unreadable and are difficult to register. There are also members who become inactive while postcards are on the way to them. The system behind the website accounts for all these factors and compensates active members by attempting to reduce the difference between the number of sent and received postcards of each member.
Last updated August 31, 2018.
The idea for the project was created by Paulo Magalhães, who started the site on July 14, 2005. The motivation was based on the fact that he liked to receive mail, especially postcards. “The element of surprise of receiving postcards from different places in the world (many of which you’d probably never have heard of) can turn your mailbox into a box of surprises – and who wouldn’t like that?”
The project started initially as a hobby for Magalhães, but its unexpected success revealed that the idea was more popular than he ever predicted. He initially hosted the project on an old computer housed in a clothes closet at his home, which was shown to be insufficient. Based on word of mouth, the project quickly expanded over the Portuguese borders where the project was developed.
Over time the project received attention from the media, which contributed to its growth and popularity. Postcrossing reached its first million exchanged postcards on April 11, 2008 and has since grown even more rapidly. It reached the second million on February 26, 2009 with a postcard that traveled from Germany to Norway. The third million was reached on September 24, 2009 with a postcard traveling from Finland to Slovenia. The fourth million was reached on March 28, 2010 with a postcard traveling from the Czech Republic to the Netherlands. The popularity of the site has led to the academic community exploring what makes postcrossing so successful and what other digital communication technologies can learn from that success.
Postcrossing.com celebrated its five-year anniversary on July 14, 2010 with a photography contest for its members. Shortly after celebrating their fifth birthday, Postcrossing.com reached 5,000,000 postcards received on August 24, 2010 with a postcard traveling from Isle of Man (registered under an Italian member) to Thailand. The 7,000,000th postcard was sent on April 4, 2011 from China and received on April 19, 2011 in the Netherlands. The 10,000,000th postcard travelled from Japan to Germany and was registered on January 27, 2012. The 15,000,000th postcard travelled from Germany to Italy and was registered on December 31, 2012. At the moment, 1,000,000 postcards are registered in about two months. In January 2017 the number of postcards passed 39 million.
|Date||Time (UTC)||Million postcards||From||To|
|April 11, 2008||4:00 p.m.||1||Turkey||Romania|
|February 26, 2009||6:30 a.m.||2||Germany||Norway|
|September 24, 2009||4:10 p.m.||3||Finland||Slovenia|
|March 28, 2010||11:20 a.m.||4||Czech Republic||Netherlands|
|August 24, 2010||8:00 p.m.||5||Italy||Norway|
|December 30, 2010||12:00 p.m.||6||Spain||Germany|
|April 19, 2011||7:00 p.m.||7||China||Netherlands|
|August 2, 2011||11:30 a.m.||8||Finland||Japan|
|November 3, 2011||7:00 a.m.||9||China||Russia|
|January 27, 2012||4:50 p.m.||10||Japan||Germany|
|April 3, 2012||9:10 p.m.||11||United States||Iceland|
|June 12, 2012||7:30 p.m.||12||United States||Netherlands|
|August 22, 2012||6:10 a.m.||13||Hong Kong||Russia|
|October 25, 2012||9:50 p.m.||14||Netherlands||Honduras|
|December 31, 2012||1:46 p.m.||15||Germany||Italy|
|March 4, 2013||8:21 a.m.||16||Ukraine||Russia|
|May 1, 2013||0:21 a.m.||17||Russia||Australia|
|July 3, 2013||5:53 a.m.||18||Finland||Taiwan|
|September 2, 2013||3:08 a.m.||19||Ukraine||Germany|
|October 28, 2013||10:50 p.m.||20||United States||Taiwan|
|December 23, 2013||21||Netherlands||Italy|
|February 17, 2014||22||Netherlands||Poland|
|March 29, 2014||23||Germany||Australia|
|May 31, 2014||24||Latvia||Japan|
|August 10, 2014||11:02 a.m.||25||Netherlands||Germany|
|October 10, 2014||26|
|June 2, 2015||30||Germany||Portugal|
|February 13, 2017||6:39 a.m.||40||Taiwan||France|
On October 11, 2011, PostNL released the first set of Dutch Postcrossing-themed stamps at the philatelic exhibition Postex in Apeldoorn. The sheet of 10 stamps was designed by communication agency The Stone Twins, and depicted different types of postcards seemingly strewn about (as if scattered on a doormat).
Finland was the second country to follow suit, with Itella launching their own stamps in honor of Postcrossing on September 9, 2013. Designed by Kokoro & Moi, the set includes four different first-class stamps.
On January 2, 2014, Belposhta also launched their own Postcrossing-themed stamps in Belarus. The stamp was designed by Inga Turlo and features the words "Happy Postcrossing" in both English and Belarusian.
On May 28, 2014, Guernsey Post launched a stamp designed by their marketing team, featuring the words "Happy Postcrossing" over an outline of Guernsey with a smiley face, giving the "thumbs-up" to the hobby of Postcrossing.
On January 27, 2015 the Russian Post issued a stamp designed by Olga Shushlebina. The stamp features the words “Я ❤ посткроссинг” (Russian: “I ❤ postcrossing”) and schematic pictures of world sights.
On March 25, 2016 the Russian Post again issued a stamp featuring the same words designed by I. Sidenko.