Why stick to email addresses and phone numbers (and -- oh my! -- fax numbers) when you can share social media handles and personal blog addresses and other gateways not just to communication, but to knowledge? Who needs business cards when you have Google?
With that in mind, it's hard to find a better metaphor for the cards' impending demise than the phenomenon pictured above: a business card that requires a microscope to be read.
The card itself is the creation of the Italian marketing firm Ebolaindustries, which prides itself -- as its name suggests -- on its ability to make things go viral. (The logo on the card's bottom-right corner? An ebola virus. Yes.) The card has fully committed to the theme of microbial power: It's designed to look like a lab slide, down to the fact that, if you want to learn more info about the person it represents, again: You have to use an microscope.
The card is pretty much just a marketing firm's gimmicky ploy at its own self-marketing. But it's also an eloquent little reminder of why the genre it represents is, as an artifact and as a mainstay of business-doing, doomed. The microscope thing actually isn't a bad metaphor for what business cards should, ideally, achieve: providing information about someone that isn't available to the naked eye. Business cards rose up in the 17th century -- and grew in popularity throughout the 19th century -- as a means not just of initial contact, but of announcement. The card was a polite way of reaching out to strangers. It allowed unknown people to become, suddenly, legible.
The card, in other words, served a purpose that today has been totally obviated by the Internet. On the web, we already know each other -- and not just each others' contact information, but also favorite movies and childhood homes and musical preferences. We don't need to be made legible to each other because we have already written ourselves onto the Internet.