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Staying Focused on the Road Ahead

It’s been several months since I last wrote to you about Evernote’s progress, and in that time the world has changed in ways few people could have imagined. 

As we continue to face the COVID-19 pandemic, my heart goes out to everyone who has lost loved ones to this horrible disease. I also want to express my sincere appreciation to everyone who is helping the world to fight back against this invisible enemy, often putting themselves at great risk.

Like every other company, Evernote has also had to face unexpected challenges and risks. We have always had a distributed team, with people spread across seven offices in the United States and around the world. But we’ve had to transform into a 100 percent work-from-home company, virtually overnight. We’re far from alone in this, and I recognize how fortunate we are to transition at all when so many other businesses cannot. Still, it’s an enormous change. There’s a learning curve to ensuring that our employees remain connected to each other and connected to their own well-being, all while successfully collaborating to make progress against our company goals and our commitments to you.

Many of you have asked where we stand regarding those goals, and when you can expect to see our new client apps in your hands. The good news is that we’ve made substantial progress on the foundations of Evernote. Although much of that progress is below the surface, it sets us up for faster innovation in the future. And while the apps themselves are taking much longer to deliver than we expected, we are making material progress toward release with each passing week, all with a goal of bringing you a more consistent, coherent Evernote.

We are currently distributing Preview releases on iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac every two weeks to a population of 20,000 volunteer testers in six languages, with more on the way. In Evernote parlance, a “Preview” is a customer-facing release stage that comes before Beta. This means that versions of our new apps are out in the wild right now. As Preview releases, these apps still have gaps in functionality, design, or performance, but every two weeks, they get better. They become more complete. Their performance improves (we are currently evaluating performance for our Windows and Mac builds with 50,000 note test accounts). These are necessary ingredients in getting to a more widespread Beta release, and ultimately to a production release that goes out to all of our customers.

We have also made progress in the cloud. These changes are less visible, but Evernote’s foundation matters just as much as the apps we build upon it. In one of our Behind the Scenes videos, I talked about our successful migration of billions of notes from legacy storage to horizontally scalable cloud storage. This migration happened silently, while you were using the service, and without anyone noticing. In the last couple of months, we have repeated that success.

This time, we successfully migrated all the permissions metadata which describes who owns each note and notebook, and who has access rights to shared notes, notebooks, and spaces. Again, we achieved this migration while millions of users were using the service every day, once again with no one noticing.

Changes in the cloud are not immediately obvious to an end user, but they matter, and the benefits accumulate. This migration represented another major building block in transforming our infrastructure into a more modern, reliable, and scalable framework—a necessary step for us to deliver our new clients and innovate at a faster pace.

Evernote may look simple on the outside, but it’s incredibly difficult to renovate a service with this much scale and complexity from the ground up. Because it’s not just about creating and editing notes. It’s about millions of people who use Evernote every day, with an incredible number of unique use cases. We have to discover, understand, and account for as many as possible. We do this to minimize risk and make sure future versions of Evernote delight you rather than frustrate you.

Frankly, renovating at this scale is something that few companies are willing to tackle, because it’s just so hard to do. We experience how hard it is every time we uncover another unplanned challenge or unexpectedly complex edge case. You’re experiencing how hard it is in how long it’s taking us to get there: longer than we thought, longer than we’d like, and longer than you should have to wait.

Making progress only gets harder amidst a global pandemic. But know this: We have not lost our focus. We remain resolute in our pursuit of building an ever better Evernote for you—something that we’re proud to stand behind, and that you can fall in love with all over again as you carry it throughout your work, your personal projects, and your life.

Whether it’s from our kitchen tables, our living room couches, or our front porches, we are working hard and will keep driving forward for you. Every time we release a new internal build, or a new Preview goes out to our testers, the excitement is palpable. We’ll be incredibly pleased when they prove worthy of promotion to Beta. And when we get them into your hands in a general release, we will all breathe a sigh of relief—and immediately start working to deliver what comes next.

Building a better Evernote isn’t easy. I appreciate your sticking with us as we climb this mountain together. And I look forward to all of us enjoying the view from the other side.

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