Over the years, I’ve heard CEOs say it’s tough to change things or add new features because we all use Evernote differently.

In my opinion, Ian Small, the former CEO, said it best. People often refer to it as My Evernote because, in fact, it is an entirely different experience when compared to the way others use it. That’s why when the company releases something new, some people will love it, while others will see it as a waste of time and resources.

An ecosystem of compatible Apps

If we go way back to the beginning of the Phil Libin era as CEO, the App was much simpler. To add new features, businesses and developers would use the API to create a myriad of compatible services that, in a sense, functioned as plugins. Even Evernote, the company, would create separate Apps if they wanted to experiment with new ideas.

These Apps were listed on Evernote’s website in a space called Evernote Trunk, which was later renamed App Center. Those of you who were not users back then would not believe in the number of services available.

Eventually, Libin’s team began adding new features to the main App. But, the upcoming CEO, Chris O’Neal, took the opposite approach. In an effort to maximize the firm’s resources, he began discontinuing Apps and removing numerous features. That trend, for some reason, never stopped. Even today, features are still being removed. Nonetheless, new ones have also been added. Evernote 10 introduced Home, Tasks, Widgets and many others. And more recently, Bending Spoons add many AI options.

Being in the position of approving, rejecting, and removing features must be extremely challenging. Especially because it has a significant impact on so many people.

As an example, I enjoyed the Evernote map feature, but let’s be honest, how many people actually need to see their notes on a map? Likewise, I always wanted a way to see my notes on a Kanban board. For a long time, there was even a Kanban beta that never saw the light of day. Yet again, does it make sense to spend time and resources developing a feature like this? How many people are likely to use it?

The plugins approach

If the decision to remove or introduce features was a daunting task before the acquisition of Evernote, one can only imagine the current situation after significant staff reductions. But maybe it doesn’t have to be like that.

Remember the App Center? Many people didn’t know about that section on the website. And if they managed to get there, things wouldn’t be easy.

First, not everything would be an App. Some were more about connecting and synchronizing with Evernote. Others I would not even know how to categorize. For example, there was a substitute client for the Mac called Alternote. It was a fully functioning App, but Evernote didn’t build or maintain it. A developer from Ukraine was the responsible for it. Amazingly, the Alternote website is still up, so you can go there to see some of the amazing screenshots. I hope you’re getting a sense of how powerful the API was.

Do you remember the map and Kanban system I talked about before? Obsidian also doesn’t have these features. It doesn’t even have a task feature like Evernote does. However, I can do all of these and much more using plugins.

I’ve got a suggestion

What if Bending Spoons were to stop adding new features to Evernote? Possibly, even remove some of the current features to make the App easier to use and maintain. This would mean that fewer company resources would be needed. What if they were to transform it into something simple and elegant, such as Alternote? What about having a plugins space like Obsidian, instead of the cumbersome Trunk experience?

I do not have numbers or any inside information, but I think it is reasonable to say that this would make maintaining the App much easier and would possibly incentivize developers to innovate, as has never been done before. Naturally, it is imperative that the API is still working as before to make something like this possible.

It would also mean bringing Evernote back to its roots as a note-taking App, which would attract people who don’t like all the new features. At the same time, the plugins would make so many innovations possible. And those who are very specific about how the App should be, would be able to easily create their own My Evernote.

I’d love to know what you think about this idea.

Also published on Medium