Evernote Launches Separate Chinese Service

Evernote Launches Separate Chinese Service

Posted by Phil Libin on 09 May 2012

Posted by Phil Libin on 09 May 2012

Today, Evernote unveiled its new, completely separate, Chinese service called Yinxiang Biji (印象笔记) to give our users in China a great Evernote experience. The name means Memory Notes or Impression Notes. As a happy coincidence, the second character, 象, means elephant. The previously existing Evernote service is not affected and will continue to run separately.

We’ve been hard at work on this for months: building a great team in Beijing, engineering new products, and setting up our new data centers. Minutes ago, we flipped the switch.

Here’s what it’s all about, why we did it, and what it means for you.

Why launch a separate service in China?

Our goal is to improve the lives of everyone around the world by giving them a second brain and a perfect memory. Our user base in China is growing quickly; with over a million users, it’s already our third largest country and at the current rate it’ll soon top Japan to move into second place. We’re really pleased with this, but, frankly, using Evernote in China hasn’t been a great experience.

The most common request we get from our Chinese users is to make Evernote faster, more reliable and better integrated with the rest of the Chinese Internet. Due to poor network connectivity between the US and China, there’s only one way to definitively fix the problem: have a separate service in China. That’s what we built.

In addition to dramatically improving the Chinese user experience, Yinxiang Biji also offers a number of other benefits:

  • The new Yinxiang Biji API will make it much easier for Chinese developers to build great apps and integrations. Once built, developers will be able to choose whether to have their apps work with Yinxiang Biji, Evernote, or both.
  • The service will work with Chinese partners and payment methods to match Chinese Internet expectations.
  • Yinxiang Biji will provide Chinese-language customer support based in China.

Evernote and Yinxiang Biji will be developed in parallel and share much of the code-base and features. Initially, Yinxiang Biji will not have support for sharing and social features until we complete the integration with Chinese social networking companies (Evernote’s current sharing and social features don’t work well in China anyway and are rarely used). All of our own major apps will be updated to know how to log in to either service.

What does this mean for our users inside China?

People in China now have the choice to create an account on Yinxiang Biji. Existing Evernote users may copy some or all of their notes and notebooks to a new account on the Chinese service, which will give these users all the speed and reliability advantages of the local service. Instructions on copying data to Yinxiang Biji are available here. The existing Evernote service will continue to work exactly as before, of course.

What does this mean for our users outside of China?

Absolutely nothing. Evernote and Yinxiang Biji are completely separate services with no connection to one another. Evernote data will not be stored on Yinxiang Biji servers, and vice-versa. Even though the two services are distinct, we think that over time the global community of Evernote users will benefit from great apps and integrations developed for Yinxiang Biji and configured to work with Evernote.

What about data privacy?

We will always strive to preserve the privacy of your data. Our three laws of data protection apply to both Yinxiang Biji and the Evernote Service:

  • Your data is yours
  • Your data is protected
  • Your data is portable

You can read a longer explanation of our three laws here, but the short version is that we will not share your data with any partners, analyze or data-mine it for the purposes of serving ads or other “big data” monetization schemes, or put up any obstacles to you getting your data out at any time.

This still leaves the question of government access. The laws and practices controlling data stored on servers in China are evolving rapidly and Yinxiang Biji will comply with Chinese regulations applicable to the service. This means users of Yinxiang Biji should be aware that Chinese authorities may have the right to access their data according to current regulations.

The existing Evernote service will continue to operate out of servers located in California under the protection of US privacy laws.

Our big adventure

Doing business in China is notoriously hard for western companies. We understand this and we understand that we don’t have all the answers. We thought about taking the easy road and ignoring China altogether, but that approach just isn’t Evernote-y. In a perfect world, great companies with roots in Silicon Valley should be able to succeed in China and great companies with roots in Beijing should be able to succeed in San Francisco. Most importantly, global products designed and developed through the cross-pollination of the world’s top centers of entrepreneurship and innovation will be better than products built in a vacuum.

We don’t live in a perfect world, but through hard work, innovation, optimism and transparency, we think we can nudge it along a little.

I’m really excited about this launch.

If you have questions, please ask them in the comments.


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27 Comments RSS

  • sping

    I think I’ll stick with Evernote International, because the importing will put all notebooks and stacks into a single notebook.

    • Andrew Sinkov

      That’s an important point. You can export individual notebooks and then import them into Yinxiang Biji as separate notebooks. Once they are in Yinxiang Biji, you can easily recreate you stacks.

  • 小骆驼商队

    I hope you will never force Chinese users to use the ‘Chinese version’.

    • Andrew Sinkov

      You can continue using the international version of Evernote. Keep in mind, if you are inside China, we think you’ll find that Yinxiang Biji is more accessible and reliable.

      • FX

        BUT if i choose to keep on using the original evernote, could you PLS DON’T force me to use the chinese version?
        and will you make a promise that you will never store the data in china whose users are inside china but still using the original version?
        if you can’t, i rather never use this whole stuff, never.

        • Andrew Sinkov

          If you use the international Evernote service, then your data will stored on the international service. If you use Yinxiang Biji, then your data will be stored on Yinxiang Biji in China.

    • Freshair

      I don´t live in China. I installed the international version on my Computer, but yinxiang biji on my ipad. But after I read your post, that my data will be stored in China, I uninstalled yinxiang biji immediately. But when I try to install Evernote international version on my ipad. It always shows that it is yinxiang biji. How can I uninstall yinxiang biji totally from ipad, so that I can use the international version on all my devices. If I´m not sure, that my data won´t be stored in China, I wouldn´t use Evernote any more.

  • fckGFW

    Wonderful, the Chinese edition is much faster.

  • Fuzhou Chen

    Thanks for the great effort but I have a question. It looks like has separated user accounts from This is confusing. Why do I need to create a new account for getting a faster service from the same company?

    I may not be an web expert, but I didn’t see any technical reasons to prevent us sharing the same user account database. Currently I’m still working with my existing account in BTW, thanks Yinxiang Biji for Android. It still recognize my account and works perfectly.

    Phil, could you help clarify it a little bit?

    • Andrew Sinkov

      The two services are completely separate. All user accounts and notes are maintained in separate data centers.

      If you wish to use the Yinxiang Biji service, then you will need to create an account on the new service, export your notes from Evernote and import them into Yinxiang Biji. We explain the process here:

      The Yinxiang Biji applications (like the one you use on Android) give you the choice to log into either Yinxiang Biji or Evernote. Logging into Evernote from a Yinxiang Biji application does not transfer your data to the Chinese service. You are still accessing your account on the international service.

  • Terri

    Proud of you guys!

  • JD Francis

    This is brilliant. You can’t expect to be a successful and truly global company by ignoring like one-seventh of the world’s population. Man, it has been a busy week for you all.

  • pennymax

    What an exciting news! I can understand why you take a bit wierd stradgy in China. Anyway, you are coming!
    Actually my question is: HOW TO JOIN YOU GUYS? 🙂

  • Deverill

    This is very exciting. I am happy our Chinese friends can access a faster service. I applaud your solution – even though it’s a bit confusing for existing Evernote users and that they have to move their notes to Yinxiang Biji to take advantage of it, I think it’s a great solution for speed issues.

    I am also impressed with your handling of the “political” ramifications. The Chinese government shouldn’t be unhappy with a local service, the Evernote users don’t have to fear that data is stored in a Chinese data center which could be ordered open to the government. And most importantly, you are able to provide the blessing of remember everything to more users without frustrating speed issues.

    Wins all around the table. Well done.

    By the way, how do you phonetically pronounce Yinxiang Biji so I don’t have some crazy pronunciation stuck in my head when I read it? 🙂

  • Benjamin

    As a Chinese Evernote user, I’m so happy to see the native version of Evernote in China and will make the switch as soon as possible. I will test to see if it’s any faster and report back. But please also make the premium service available so I can upload all of my notes. 60MB allowance is just to small for most people to make the switch, I think.

    • Andrew Sinkov

      Thanks Benjamin. Yinxiang Biji Premium will be available very soon.

  • Michael Tavernaro

    Would be interesting to know, if someone can share to facebook using the international version in China.

    Anyway for a company, which wants success in China, the only way in China is the chinese way.

  • Brian

    Okay I’ve created an Yinxiang account but when I open Evernote on the Mac it doesn’t let me log in. What am I doing wrong?

    I’m in China, I’m able to log into the Web version of the app. I also have an international account and have no issues logging using that account.

    I’d like to use the Chinese version for faster speed access to notes and files.


    What about a data centre in Hong Kong? Wouldn’t that increase speed while avoiding coming under mainland law?

  • KenJones

    Does the Chinese service include the ability to encrypt selections of text within a note? …and if so, is it strong?

  • KenJones

    Since someone asked about pronouncing the name, I’ll give it a try. There are four parts to the name. I’ll take them one at a time. First 印 is written yin and spoken in the fourth tone, which means it is falling from a higher than usual pitch to a low pitch, as you might say a word in angry-command-voice Come Here, *Now!*– Now falls in pitch. The sound is very close to the British English “been” or American “bean” but without the initial “B”.
    Use the same tone of voice (falling) for the second part, 象 pronounced something close to shee-ahng, but all at once. I type it in two parts because “eea” isn’t English, as far as I know. Anyway, the initial sound (the “she” part) is spoken with the lips pulled back tightly (like an agressive smile, with a mouth full of teeth all visible) so that the escaping “sh” noise exits the mouth from all across the front, not through pursed lips as we say “she.” There is no English equivalent AFAIK. The final part sounds close to “ahhng” with a little more of the “n” noticeable before becoming the “ng” sound. Not easy to do. To say this two-part word, lower your head abruptly as you say each sound, and you’ll get the tone to fall properly. If you sound a little angry, you’ve got it. 印象 means “impression” as in “I have a good impression of him.”
    Stay tuned, there’s more.

  • KenJones

    Part two. How do you say it in English???
    The third and fourth characters are 笔记 or almost exactly BeeGee, as in the Brothers Gibb, except the tone isn’t the same. (The BeeGee name incidentally is two fourth tones, but it’s not Chinese.) It’s written bi ji. The first part of 笔记 is “bee” in third tone, which starts at a medium pitch then drops to a gutteral growl before rising again, as we might hear the sound drop and rise again when we say “oh, really?” especially if we didn’t believe him when our son told us he wasn’t there, didn’t do it and didn’t even know about the [fill in the blank]. Got it? That’s third tone. FInally (at last) the ji is spoken gee, as in haw (sorry, obscure reference there) in fourth tone, angry, falling pitch
    .There. That was easy.

  • Ramon Thomas

    Thank you for this wonderful article. It’s the first time I noticed the Three Laws on Privacy. You’ve just converted me into a customer for life on Evernote outside and inside China 😉

  • human rights

    Next step. European server for Europeans. As a foreigner (non American), these 3 laws of “protection” means nothing. Sounds really hollow.


    Thanks for finally talking about > Evernote Launches Separate Chinese Service – Evernote Blog
    < Loved it!

  • BearTrunks

    I don’t understand at all why I, an American citizen living within the national borders, have my browser sporadically try to connect with the yinxiang servers? I use an app to block this process. It was quite by accident that I even became aware that it was happening. Nothing stated here gives me any reason to disbelieve this is some kind of backdoor process. Evernote evades this issue in discussions.

    • Taylor Pipes

      Thank you for reaching out. This should not be taking place if you’re in the United States. We’re happy to figure out what’s going on and help. Please open up a support ticket at and let us know the ticket number. We’ll make sure that it gets escalated to urgent status.