Why Did Evernote Need to Go Social?

Need a clear sign of where Evernote, and perhaps every other Web-based tool, is headed? Check out the note-taking service’s latest Windows update.

Need a clear sign of where Evernote, and perhaps every other Web-based tool, is headed?  Check out the note-taking service’s latest Windows update.

Evernote, the Web-based service best described as an ‘online yellow sticky pad,’ is in the midst of a social transformation.  In a blog post announcing the update, the company itself said, “the big news is sharing.”

Users who use the Evernote app as a note-taking tool for everything in their digital life, from text notes to photos, websites and media, can now share their notes through email, Facebook and Twitter, and better manage and share their notebooks with groups.

The upgrade opens Evernote to what the company’s directors quickly learned was inevitably the future: an entirely new social aspect.

“Evernote, historically, has not been social — at all,” said Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote. “You go to Facebook when you fell like not being productive. You go to Evernote when you actually feel like getting something accomplished. That’s been our position.”

“What we realized over the past year or so is that those two halves of your life really need to be well-connected,” he said in explaining the change in philosophy.  “So Evernote doesn’t have to be only social, but there has to be easy ways for you share your important stuff in Evernote with your friends and your social network.”

With the upgrade, to share a note via a third-party social network, users now just have to click the new “Share” button and choose from one of four options: send by email, post to Facebook, post to Twitter and copy note URL to clipboard.

Evernote then opens a new browser window and auto-populates a tweet in Twitter or status update in Facebook with the title of the note and a URL that points to the Evernote file. Once shared, the file becomes public, but the user does keep the option to mark the note private gain.

The Windows upgrade is just the latest in a series of big changes for the Mountain View, Calif.-based company.

Over the last few months, Evernote has rolled out new versions of its most popular apps, with redesigns to iPhone, Android, Windows, and Mac. In late March it released a new Web version of Evernote, marking the first major redesign since the company launched in 2008.

More than just social media integration, the sharing upgrades to the notebook feature in the Windows redesign seem, in particular, to indicate another of Evernote’s priorities is making sure it stays current with online collaboration, like Google Docs. A new “shared” tab in the notebook list gives the user a place to go to share notebooks and manage settings, but also now to view the notebooks other Evernote users have shared with him or her.

Evernote also included enhancements in the upgrade to make the tool more user-friendly for writers, not just note-takers.  The Status Bar now shows word and character counts for notes, and includes the option to find and replace text, a typical feature of word processing applications.

Also of note for the company is the explanation of how, and why, Evernote moved towards social, an interesting example of user expectations and demand.

“In the beginning our userbase skewed older than for most services. Today, we’re seeing tremendous growth in the student demographic,” Evernote’s vice president, Andrew Sinkov, explained to tech blog GigaOm.  “For that age-group, the expectation is that products on the web should be as powerful as those on the desktop. So, we rebuilt Evernote Web so that it is no longer a secondary player.”