Online Notebook Smackdown: Evernote Vs. Springpad

4/16/10Follow @wroush

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Morgenthaler Ventures of Menlo Park, CA. Springpad, meanwhile, is making do on a $4 million June 2008 Series A round from Cambridge, MA-based Fairhaven Capital. Evernote is located in the world capital of Web startups, while Springpad is that loneliest of beasts—a consumer-facing Web company in the Boston area (it’s one of only two Web startups in all of Charlestown, as far as I know). Such details shouldn’t matter to users, but they may be of interest to veteran startup-watchers, or to people who like to bet on underdogs.

So, the choice between the two cloud notekeeping services really comes down to what you’re looking for. To use some possibly unflattering similes, Evernote is like a really efficient file clerk at an old-time newspaper who spends all of his time in the morgue, organizing and indexing drawers full of clips. Springpad is like a big dog who wants to be at your side everywhere you go and do everything you do. Put another way, Springpad is like Archilochus’s fox, who knows many little things, and Evernote is like the hedgehog, who knows one big thing.

Jeff Janer, the CEO of Spring Partners, stopped by Xconomy last week to show me some of Springpad’s latest features, and I asked him how he describes the differences between his product and Evernote. “We’ve gotten lots of press about being a serious Evernote competitor,” he said. “We do overlap significantly with them on just capturing notes. But we’re very different in the context of what you do after you save it. They are a personal organizer, a search index for your stuff. Our aspiration is to be more of a personal assistant. Because it’s structured data that most people are saving, we can append information to it. If you’re capturing a note about Blu-Ray players, we can show you a price comparison or link you to reviews on CNET. It’s not just ‘Capture and organize,’ but ‘How can we help you out?’”

Which approach will give rise to the stronger business is, in the end, hard to say. For Evernote, the path to riches is simple: the company just has to sign up millions of premium members. But that could be tough if it has to compete with free alternatives like Springpad. For Spring Partners, the challenge is very different: the company has to turn each stored note into a lead generation opportunity for an advertising partner. Given the variety of activities most consumers are engaged in all day long, there ought to be lots of possibilities here, but exploiting them will involve a lot of sales and business-development work on top of the old-fashioned programming.

Personally, I’m more of an Evernote guy. But then I’m an alpha geek. I think Springpad’s “addressable market,” as the MBAs like to put it, is probably bigger than Evernote’s, since it includes almost any consumer with a computer and/or a smartphone. In the end, my guess is that there’s room in this market for both foxes and hedgehogs.

For a full list of my columns, check out the World Wide Wade Archive. You can also subscribe to the column via RSS or e-mail, and you can download Pixel Nation, an e-book version of the first 80 columns, as a free PDF file or a $4.99 Kindle edition.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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  • http://www.nookl.com noklpopl

    I have tested both and must say, that they are not very user friendly. It has to be easier since most of the internet users are idiots.. :-)

  • Maxwell Jones

    You forgot Evernote’s terms of condition that states you give them your content basically. Springpad’s is more reasonable.

    In section 5:
    “Accordingly, by using the Service and posting Content, you grant Evernote a license to display, perform and distribute your Content, and to modify and reproduce such Content to enable Evernote to operate and promote the Service. (You also agree that Evernote has the right to elect not to accept, post, store, display, publish or transmit any Content in our sole discretion.) You agree that these rights and licenses are royalty free, irrevocable and worldwide, and include a right for Evernote to make such Content available to, and pass these rights along to, others with whom Evernote has contractual relationships related to the provision of the Evernote Service, solely for the purpose of providing such services, and to otherwise permit access to your Content to third parties if Evernote determines such access is necessary to comply with its legal obligations.”

    • Jonathan Hernandez

      Wow this is a Huge deal breaker. Thank you for piinting thus out. I put some personal stuff and ideas on there.

  • michael

    I like both and trying to figure out how to keep them separate, for example, Evernote for snap shots and SpringPad for text. However, Evernote has a big advantage, in my opinion, in the desktop app. There are many times I do not have internet access. We just moved to a new house and would have been dead in the water had it not been for Evernote’s desktop app. The OCR and voice recording capabilities are also a plus. Springpad has a plus (in addition to its smart content) in that it also handles tasks. But both need a way to DUMP the data for printing.

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  • James

    “Springpad is free forever” Don’t overlook that there’s a big “beta” symbol when you sign in. Like Skitch, the revenue scheme might prove surprising down the road.

  • mike012003

    I recently started using Evernote and its “free” storage space is severely limited. I have over 4000 pics on my iphone and have used only half the iphone capacity. I uploaded 166 pics from the iphone to Evernote, used 99% of Evernote upload capacity and recieved a warning notice that Evernote utilization would be restricted until the next cycle. From a practical standpoint Evernotes data restriction allows only 2% utilization of my iphones capacity per month. With this strict data limitation, it is more functional to use my iphone, ipad, and laptops and “Forget Evernote”.

  • Hassayampa_Slim

    mike012003 doesn’t say how long it took him to get the 4000 pics on his iPhone… Now, he expects to upload all of them to the cloud. He should have been using and uploading as he went along and not wait until he has an unreasonable amount of data. He’s also using the “free” version, which has a lower monthly upload limit. Use it for what it’s designed, and pay for premium service if you have large data needs, and I think you’ll find both Evernote and Springpad usable programs.

  • http://dangoldesq.wordpress.com Daniel Gold

    Wade – great post! I’m sure you’ve seen that Springpad has really amped up their services since the date of your review. I completely agree with you, as the question really becomes: what do I need a “remember everything” digital filing cabinet for anyway? Is it to have as a reference file to go back to later and quickly find it because of tags or do I need my notes to “do something” – like link with 3rd party websites like Amazon, etc? I recently put together a comparison on my site and would love to get your feedback! http://wp.me/ptgV6-bf. Thanks!!

  • http://www.zukmo.com/ Chris Jones

    Wade, thanks for this article! You’ve provided a terrific, very well thought-out comparison of Evernote and Springpad which clearly explains why both products have the ability to coexist (they’re both actually targeting quite different market segments).

    I actually work for a company called Zukmo (http://www.zukmo.com/) and we’re developing a cloud based app that’s really gaining some traction in the same broad market (http://www.zukmo.com). It already has a lot of features as an alpha release, but in a few months it’s slated to be a fully fledged information management app with mobile platforms and content management/collaborative features unlike anything currently available on the market. We love hearing from people with a high level of exposure to the information management industry, so if you were to pick a few features, specific or general, which make an cloud-based information management tool an absolute must-have, what would they be and why? We would really love to hear what you have to say!

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