Evernote Wants to Make Your Memories More Magical

1/18/12Follow @wroush

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a hypothetical crazy number. That’s very much what our goals are, and that is what we are preparing for when we do our IT buildout.”

Evernote has the potential to get that big because, at bottom, it’s “a service that makes you smarter. It gives you a better brain, and that is in universal demand,” Libin says. But right now, Evernote is basically a big, personalized multimedia database that you can access from your PC, your smartphone, or your tablet. When you open the main Evernote application, you see a huge collection of notes. There’s only as much structure as you’ve chosen to create by tagging the individual notes or organizing them into notebooks. For the billionth user, the Evernote experience will probably be very different.

Evernote Food on the iPhone

Evernote’s new Food app, released last month for the iPhone, reflects parts of Libin’s new vision. The app is simple: it helps you create a record of memorable meals. For any given meal, you can snap a few photos, write captions and notes, and attach tags and a location. All of the data is automatically stored in your Evernote account, and when you browse past meals within the app, you see related notes, such as restaurant reviews, recipes, or profile information for the other people who were at the meal.

At first blush, an app that you use to take pictures of your favorite restaurant dishes might sound a lot like Foodspotting, the massively popular iPhone, Windows, Android, and Blackberry app from the San Francisco startup of the same name. But Libin argues the two apps have completely different purposes: Foodspotting is all about sharing with your social networks, he says, whereas Evernote Food is about your personal history and building a context for your memories.

“You know me, so you know that I eat a lot,” Libin told me. (The quip implies a level of rotundity that Libin doesn’t actually possess.) “The meals I’m having are a core bookmark into my life. That’s how I remember many things. When I’m looking back, I’m saying ‘Oh, here is this trip I just came back from in Paris, and here is what we talked about, and here is what we ate.’ It’s all intertwined. It makes my memories more vivid, and gives me the ability to serendipitously rediscover other things, like the business cards I collected at the meal and the notes I took.”

Evernote Hello for the iPhone

Evernote’s Hello app, released the same day as Food, has a complementary purpose: to store contact information in a way that aligns with the way our memories actually work. Again, the app is extremely simple: It lets you add a new person to your records by typing in their name, taking a snapshot, and entering information such as a Twitter handle, an e-mail address, and a phone number. The information is copied to Evernote. For each past contact, the app shows you when and where you met them, along with notes related by time, location, or keyword.

“An address book is a completely weird and arbitrary thing that is completely at odds with how your brain works,” Libin says. “Your brain doesn’t store things alphabetically. You remember faces—not even high-quality pictures, just expressions. You remember the chronology—when did I meet that person. And you remember the context—who else was there, did we eat something, what did we talk about.” The whole point of Hello, Libin says, is to “make the experience of remembering people more natural.”

And that’s the recurring theme in Evernote’s app development. Libin says most consumer software was designed by and for computer-science experts, without much consideration for … Next Page »

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

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  • http://www.dailygrommet.com Jules Pieri

    Wade,

    I’m surprised you did not mention Pinterest in this piece. It’s the biggest threat to my own Evernote loyalty. I get the distinction you draw between privately amassing the stuff you want to remember on Evernote, versus the completely public nature of Pinterest. But the visual side of it and the consumer base it so quickly assembled tells you that “simple and beautiful” have a lot over the more fully featured services that the geeky crowd adopts. For now I am straddling both the Pinterest and Evernote universes and maybe I always will. But to reach the numbers you project, Evernote really needs the more influential Pinterest crowd than the Techcrunch one.

  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/wroush/ Wade Roush

    Jules: Thanks for the comment. I have to confess that I still don’t understand the appeal of Pinterest. They’ve certainly nailed the simple, beautiful, visual approach, which is what Evernote is now aspiring to, for very good reasons. But I don’t get how Pinterest fits into the workflow of its users or makes their information environments easier to manage, whereas Evernote clearly does. (Maybe the fact that I use terms like “workflow” and “information environment” means I’m just too far over on the geek side of the spectrum to get it.)

  • http://www.dailygrommet.com Jules Pieri

    Wade, you pretty much answered your own question. For the two ton gorilla of consumer applications (women) workflow would include a much broader array of needs than Evernote addresses. The uses might look a bit frivolous or personal to a non-Pinterest user but they are pretty central to a Pinterest user’s life.

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