Modern Internet connectivity meets old-school snail mail charm in Shanghai resident Paulo Magalhães’s popular website Postcrossing.com, which allows users to send and receive postcards from friendly strangers all around the globe. Founded in July 2005, the site grew wildly popular as fans passed the news by word-of-mouth and now boasts 50,000 users in 182 countries. On the occasion of its third anniversary, Shanghaiist caught up with the Portuguese innovator just as Postcrossing hit its biggest milestone to date — one million postcards exchanged!
Tell us about your website, Postcrossing.com. How did that get started?
The site rests on a simple idea: send a postcard and receive one back from a random person, somewhere in the world. It started as a small pet project I drafted on my spare time when I was finishing school. I love to receive mail, especially postcards. Knowing there were more people with the same preference, I decided to find a way that we could all exchange postcards using the internet as the platform for this offline hobby.The result was a project that is used by people from 8 to 80 years old, across many different cultures, religions and backgrounds. A lot of the users become penfriends and keep corresponding with each other. And there’s at least one report of a wedding — one for an Aussie guy and a Finish girl who met through Postcrossing.
We’re sure you’ve sent and received a ton of postcards yourself —what have been your favorites?
I welcome pretty much any type of postcard. I especially like smart and funny cards, and I love the ones that reveal some interesting detail about a location I never heard of.
From Shanghai I like to send the night views of the city — the lit-up high rises are quite stunning.
So you guys just hit your 1 million mark recently. What plans do you have for the site next? Any new features in the works?
The next goal is obviously to have 2 million exchanged postcards and to reach all countries! Besides that, there are some ideas cooking to give users more features. One we are pursuing is the ability to create and order custom postcards right on the website with users’ own photos.
Sweet! Speaking of site features, we looked at the stats on your site and saw that Finland appears to be the largest nation of postcard senders! How do you explain that?
I don’t! Initially I though it was just a nice hobby for their long cold winters, but summer time is just the same. I can only deduce it’s in their social background to love to send and receive postcards from all over the world.
Your site allows people to catch a glimpse of places all over the globe. But what about your own travel experience? What first brought you to Shanghai from Portugal?
I have liked to travel and live in different places for some time. Being an European and having lived in the USA for a while, I figured Asia was a sensible choice to explore next. Shanghai couldn’t be a bad option to start with.
Living in China provides adventures even in a simple visit to the supermarket. I like that — a position away from the comfort zone, which forces the exploration of something new every day.
What do you most like and dislike about living here?
The pollution is quite a major drawback: looking the horizon can be demotivating. Oh, and the hot and wet summers – I don’t think I’ll ever get used to them!
But on the bright side, you can find pretty much anything in this city if looking hard enough. And probably at a very decent price.
So you’re sticking in Shanghai for a while longer. Do you have any plans for new ventures in the city?
Currently I’m working for a web development company here in Shanghai. There are plans, but they’re secret!
If you know of any other Shanghai-based dot.coms that we should hear about, drop us an email at info AT shanghaiist DOT com!