SXSW: Evernote, the Anti-Social Application

Remember when people kept personal journals? With so many convenient tools for sharing our experiences with hundreds of others online, it seems that fewer people take time to record their thoughts in a quiet, private setting – one that can’t be forwarded, retweeted, stumbled, or dugg.

Evernote is betting that there’s still a market for introverts. Founded in 2004 by Russian-American scientist Stepan Pachikov, Evernote is a personal database service where users can store writings, images, voice recordings, and clippings from articles on the Web on a single, private site. It syncs these entries across multiple devices; take a picture of a bottle of wine with your camera phone while you’re out at a restaurant, and the photo will be on your computer when you get home and decide to order a case of it. There’s also fancy character-recognition technology that allows Evernote to index any written words that show up in a picture so you can easily search for it later.

Phil Libin, the company’s chief executive, says a lot of what people pump onto social web sites like Twitter at a rapid rate is frivolous information. “There’s very little meat on it,” he says. By comparison, he says the 820,000 users of Evernote are uploading valuable memories that they want to store safely and more permanently. “We want to be your trusted long term memory,” Libin adds.

A free version of Evernote gives users up to 40 MB of storage each month, but for $4 per month or $45 per year the site offers unlimited uploads and faster syncing between devices. Currently more than 90% of Evernote customers use the free version, which now includes banner ads on its pages.

Here’s a video I shot with Libin at South by Southwest in Austin, in which he calls Evernote “the anti-social app.”

Phil Libin, Evernote from Arik Hesseldahl on Vimeo.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.