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.