Goodbye Evernote, you doublespeak snake

I got the note recently from Evernote, much like all my friends, that starts:

At Evernote, we are committed not only to making you as productive as you can be, but also to running our business in as transparent a way as possible. We’re making a change to our Basic service, and it’s important that you know about it.

They go on to drop the bombshell that they’re raising prices on the paid plans, changing feature allocation, and most egregiously, putting new limitations on the Basic (free) accounts. Limiting free users to only having two devices is a serious attack on all those who’ve been working under the assumption that we should continue to invest our memories, data and daily workflow into their platform with the knowledge that we’d always be able to use it everywhere we were.

My PM Perspective

It’s obvious that Evernote’s VCs are putting the screws to them – either that “growth in user signups” is no longer what they’re after, but top-line growth in revenue – or that (more likely) Evernote’s growth in new users is fast waning (the market is now matured), and they need to start farming those millions of naïve suckers for increased revenue.

Either way, the revenue play couldn’t be more obvious. Make it nearly laughably inconvenient for most of their users to use, and at the same time boost the pricing on their subscription plans. Dangerous move kids.

In one way I have hand it to the Product Manager(s) who came up with this scheme – this is the boldest move they could make to convert free users over. I have to believe that they looked at their user base’s # of connected devices before deciding that “2” would be the magic tipping point (i.e. most users have at least three frequently-used devices to use Evernote).

It’s unfortunate that they had to rush the subscription price increase at the same time, however; had they waited another 6 months to let the hordes rush over to their more affordable plans, and *then* raised prices, they might not have caught our ire quite so widely.

Here’s a more winning alternative: convert me to one of the existing paid subscriptions, let me get used to the new normal, settle in to my old habits, let my addiction to the convenience of Evernote at these lower prices take hold again, and *then* ask for a little more money (see Netflix’s recent move to boost streaming prices by a couple of dollars, without changing features *or* the DVD subscription pricing).

I’m gladly giving Netflix the extra dollars, as I currently feel *happy* and agreeable to them, even though I don’t particularly feel like they should need more money for an increasingly-crappy catalogue of non-Netflix movies (which is precisely why I hang on to the DVD subscription).

Had they earned my trust either up to now or through these transitions, I suspect I’d be singing their praises, not migrating out wholesale.

Value Delivery Issues

The obvious value gap – for me – is in what I get back for the price at each subscription level.  At the Plus tier ($34.99/year), there isn’t one feature that I’ve ever actually needed – except the multi-device access (which just pisses me off).  At the Premium tier ($64.99/year), the only feature I would enjoy is the Business Card scanning feature – and as mentioned below, I have learned to mistrust it.

Perhaps I’m an outlier in feeling burned by Evernote, but I sincerely doubt it: there’s been an undercurrent of discontent with Evernote’s products for years:

  • Hello/Food starved out, features added then removed, unceremoniously dumped, and their rich content templates never migrated to Evernote.
  • Business Card scanning feature totally screwy – added to Hello with a “one-year free” promo then silently removed; added to Scannable with another “one-year free” promo then also silently removed from there; template for the scanned data changed at least once that I noticed, and made increasingly less useful *and* less searchable throughout my limited use of it. NOTE: I’ve never had any of these changes communicated to me through their apps, so I don’t know what noob Product/Community Manager thinks they are smoking when they say “running the business in as transparent a way as possible”. I’ve learned not to believe that for a second.
  • Many obvious features requested repeatedly with no acknowledgement let alone commitment (see the forums for a good laugh)
  • An “editor” feature that’s been abysmally poorly written, such that pasting content from Evernote notes is laughably painful for those using that content elsewhere like WordPress
  • A web-based interface that’s tolerable for read-only but horrific for writing – even in Chrome, it can’t seem to auto-save without creating multiple conflicting copies of the same note

And outlier or not, within 24 hours I went out to find the tools to migrate my eight years worth of notes over to OneNote. I’d looked into this a few times over the years, hearing good things Windows types said about OneNote, but never quite believed that it had outgrown its wart-on-the-ass-end-of-Office roots. Given the obvious migration incentive though, I’m willing to give it a try.

OneNote After A Week

So far OneNote has been performant and useable:

  • the migration tool seemed to bring over all the content, though (because of Evernote’s screwy CDATA embedded-HTML formatting) the layout of the content is loose and weirdly-fonted.
  • The difference between Notebooks/embedded notebooks and Notebooks/sections took me a bit (and two tries with the migration so that I got an acceptable arrangement of Tagged content), but otherwise so far so good.
  • I have no evidence that I’ve lost any data, or had any sync conflicts arise. (Unlike Evernote in app or on web)
  • The in-app editor is clean and hasn’t done anything I didn’t want it to do.

Bonus: the web editing experience is seamless.

Tip: if you want full editing power in Windows, use the free Desktop client, not the default “Trusted App” (the Win10/Metro/tablet-oriented app).

3 thoughts on “Goodbye Evernote, you doublespeak snake

    1. As it turns out, I got more tired of OneNote’s wonky UX than angry at Evernote. I’ve since migrated back to Evernote and I’m just suffering with the 2-device limitation as long as possible.


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