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Phil Libin on the past, present, and future of Evernote

It must be nice to be Evernote CEO Phil Libin right now. His company's product / service, Evernote, is about to break 2 million customers, they're past the days of initial development and beta testing, and the future is looking bright.

I had a chance to chat with Mr. Libin last Friday about Evernote, the service that acts as a cloud-based repository for all of the information in your life. Last year during the closed beta test of the service, TUAW's Brett Terpstra interviewed Libin, who called Evernote "universal human memory extension." Whatever information you want to put into the Evernote cloud -- text, photos, voice memos -- is available for searching and viewing from your Mac, PC, or iPhone. Handwritten or printed text runs through a recognition routine that makes it searchable text, something that I've found incredibly useful when storing my business cards in Evernote. You can send web pages to Evernote from Firefox with the click of a button, or tweet notes to Evernote by addressing them to @myEN.

Libin ran me through a short history of Evernote, mentioning that many of the first reviews and discussions of it were provided by TUAW. The Mac app and the service began a closed beta in February, 2008, moving to an open beta in June of that year. As Libin noted, "We never really told anyone when we came out of beta; we just gradually removed the word 'beta' from the site and the software." Since then, Evernote has signed up almost 2 million users.

When I asked Libin if Evernote was meeting the company's expectations in terms of growth, he replied that "we're right where we thought we'd be now." In terms of the present and near future, there's a lot going on. Localized versions of Evernote will be available by the end of 2009 for several European countries, with a Japanese localized version on tap for early 2010. Libin noted that "the Japanese market is huge! Evernote is listed in many Japanese magazines, half of our Twitter traffic is in Japanese, and we're even thinking about opening an office in Japan."
All of the client software has been recently updated. The first version of the software is always for the Mac; Libin is an unabashed Mac fan, having switched to the platform a few yeas ago. Some of the things we'll be seeing in the near term include geotagging of all notes, which provides a way to search for information by where you entered it. For example, if you attended a conference and captured a lot of information through your Mac and/or iPhone, you could search for all notes that you entered while you were there simply because they were all captured in the same vicinity.

Libin mentioned that the most requested feature for the iPhone app is the local caching of notes. To add this functionality, the app will require a total rewrite, but support for full caching will be available in a few months. What's great about this upcoming functionality is that there's no need for a network connection to be able to view your Evernotes. Instead, you'll be able to sync all, some, or none of your notes between devices. Notes that are created on the iPhone will stay there, as will notes that you view on the iPhone. Users will have the ability to specify which notebooks (logical collections of notes) they wish to sync to their iPhone. The company is still determining requirements for these user tunable features. Libin also mentioned that the upcoming changes to the iPhone app will make it much more usable on the iPod touch, opening up full usage of its feature set to a much larger audience that will no longer need to be tied to a Wi-Fi connection.

The future looks very bright for Evernote integration in other applications. Libin stated that over 600 developers have API keys, although only a handful of products are currently shipping. Existing partners with Evernote include EyeFi, the JotNot and Readdle Scanner Pro iPhone apps, ReQall, and Pixily, among others.

Pixily's service could be especially useful for Evernote users who have boxes full of documents that are cluttering up their lives. They can send those paper documents -- bills, magazine clippings, recipe cards, handwritten journals -- to Pixily for scanning, and have then automatically transferred to their Evernote account for future reference.

Libin ended the call on a high note as well, mentioning that the company has recently received a new round of funding. For TUAW readers who haven't yet tried out Evernote, you can register for the service here, download the Mac or Windows PC software here, or even try out the iPhone / iPod touch app [iTunes Link].

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