An approved service from the U.S. Postal Service that is provided by third parties for printing U.S. postage stamps on a user's printer. In 1999, E-Stamp Corporation and Stamps.com were the first PC Postage sites. Postage is paid for and downloaded from the service's Web site, and the stamp and bar code are printed on an envelope or label. The printed stamps are known as "electronic stamps," "Internet postage," "online postage," "online stamps," "digital stamps," and "digital postage." They are also called "e-stamps," however, E-Stamp, originally a trademark of E-Stamp Corporation, later became a trademark of Stamps.com (see Stamps.com).|
In 2002, the post office offered Click-N-Ship, its own online PC Postage site that charges only for the price of the postage. It also added military base addresses along with the appropriate customs forms for shipping packages to members of the armed services.
The Indicia Program
The bar code and associated printed elements are based on the Post Office's Information Based Indicia Program (IBIP). The indicia contains numerous data elements, including date, delivery point and digital signature. Some systems rely on software only while others use a hardware key (dongle) that holds the downloaded postal funds. Address cleansing may also be offered by the provider. See hardware key and address cleansing.