Re: Forget the politicians
In the case of the US, are you confusing visas with their electronic travel authorisation system for visa free travel? In most cases a "visa" still means sending off your passport and getting a visa put in it.
I was being careless with the terminology, true. An ESTA, like the Canadian ETA, is an electronic recogition that in some cases a visa requirement can be waived, so in a sense it's an explicit non-visa that serves as a visa!
There are electronic visas, though. Turkey, India, and a number of middle-eastern and asian countries issue them, no need to send away a passport.